A really gruesome thought has occurred to me.

First, fair warning: I’m speculating about the motives of Craig Hicks in killing the three people in that Chapel Hill condo. I know it’s stupid to speculate about the motives of killers in the absence of knowledge…but that ship has sailed. People already are speculating about the motives, and if we – by which I mean we vocal atheists – stay silent we just come across as evasive or worse.

Plus there’s the fact that it looks like a hate crime against Muslims because Muslims, and there was anger at the fact that it wasn’t being reported.For that reason too I think we shouldn’t ignore it.

So I’m speculating; that is, I’m trying to think about what might be his motives, or perhaps more accurately what set him off.

We don’t know; we don’t know that he went to their condo to complain about parking and then flipped out, but that seems to be one likely explanation. It doesn’t seem to fit a planned murder of three people for the crime of being Muslim, or a planned murder of three or two people or one person for parking in his parking spot. We don’t know, but suppose the story is that somebody parked in his spot and he went to the condo to make another fuss about parking.

What has occurred to me is that when he went there he found a man, and two women in hijabs. Two. It has occurred to me that he could have flipped out because of the two women in the condo. He had encountered Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha before, but perhaps he’d never seen Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha before. I don’t suppose he got into a friendly chat with them about who’s visiting from out of town. It has occurred to me that he may have seen a second woman there and leapt to the conclusion that Deah was going in for polygamy, right there in the same condo complex with him, and flipped out.

I don’t know, obviously. It’s sheer speculation. But there is a big gap between going to someone’s door to complain about parking, and shooting three people in the head. A huge gap.

It is a horribly gruesome thought.


  1. says

    I think that may be the biggest problem, here… that gap.

    Someone goes from “STOP PARKING WRONG!” to three, execution-style murders. He happens to be an atheist. They happen to be Muslims. And what everyone’s trying to do is use those facts to fill in the gap.

    This will be used against us atheists, of that I have no doubt. And that’s why we need to continue speaking out against this.

    But that gap? That gap is what’s so terrifying. The way he killed them makes it look premeditated. Sure, that could be a fluke; a coincidence. Ir it could be that he’d been planning this for a while. But over a parking space, or because they were Muslims? Frankly, that latter just seems more realistic than the former.

    A gun-loving white cis-gendered male who happens to be an atheist and anti-theist (I always have to stress that I’m an anti-theist, as well) growing up in and taking to heart a horribly Islamophobic culture kills three Muslims… over parking issues?


  2. says

    From a British perspective, he was an angry man who was allowed to walk around with a gun in his belt.

    I understand your need to reach for something but has the number of gun killings in the USA numbed you to the fact that

    angry (and the modern world makes people angry)

    men (victims of the patriarchy that is expressed in toxic masculinity)

    shouldn’t be allowed to walk around with guns in their belts?

    The same goes for angry women as well but they don’t seem to be doing so much of the shooting.

  3. says

    Yes, Danny Butts, that’s exactly it, I’m numbed, so that’s why I have arranged it so that angry men are allowed to walk around with guns in their belts. I could prevent that right this second if only I weren’t so numbed.

  4. says

    And I don’t think you do understand my “need to reach for something” because that’s not what this is. This is about thinking about what’s in that vast gap between complaint about parking or noise or whatever and shooting three people in the head. Doing it while two of them screamed, too.

  5. Vincent says

    It seems that, all over the world, this crime is presented as “an atheist kills three Muslim students” not as “yet another American kills three Americans”

    Indeed, I hadn’t seen the word “atheist” in French newspapers for a couple of months…

  6. brucegee1962 says

    The case this reminds me of the most is George Zimmerman. People who walk around carrying guns, and like to imagine themselves as Defenders Of the Homeland, have probably already entered into a rich fantasy life where their gun makes them a superhero. They’re far more likely, then, to tweak reality until it allows them to live out their fantasy.

    I’ll hold off on speculating on what exactly might have triggered him, though — I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

  7. says

    I don’t think there’s much reason to be sure we’ll ever find out exactly what triggered him, since we can’t be sure he’ll be forthright about it, or that he knows himself what triggered him. It takes a goddy kind of knowledge to discover that kind of knowledge.

  8. Blanche Quizno says

    We have a neighbor’s account that Hicks was an angry, aggressive, scary guy who routinely accosted and frightened condo residents, often about parking issues.

    But the fact that these three ended up dead, these three who when all together were identifiable as “other”, that is troubling. The man on his own wouldn’t attract attention aside from being Bobby Jindal brown – he was tall (a plus in our culture), clean cut (another plus), handsome (can’t go wrong there). The women were instantly identifiable by their hijab. Did Hicks think, in his parking-space-rage-clouded mind, that he’d stumbled upon one of those “terror cells” the right wing would have us believe are lurking all around us, and that it was his right-wing patriotic duty to take them out??

    From his Facebook page (separate, unrelated comments):

    It is official, I am a grumpy old man. I now am sure of this, as when I saw a couple having sex in their vehicle in my parking lot a little bit ago instead of just ignoring it I called Chapel Hills finest on them.

    They are NOT friends of mine if they do not support equality, and I am better without them!!!

    The problem with this (atheist symbol) is in thumbnail mode it looks like a scribbled out marriage equality symbol. I can assure you that isn’t the meaning I had!

    My better half just gave me some very disturbing news. FirstMerit bank has told some of it’s employees, one of which is my wifes good friend, that if Obama wins they will drop their health insurance. They will opt out and pay the penalty instead of insuring their employees. I’m really getting tired of this crap, and either way will never deal with this company again, not that I did before.

    Amen sister!!! (to “I have no need for religion; I have a conscience”)

    I don’t agree with the first part of Elton’s statement (Sir John would ban religion completely), with banning religion. Not that I care for religion, as I most definitely do not, but banning it would be taking away a persons rights and I oppose that.

    The sad part about this, the majority of the people in this country(U.S.) feel this way. What’s worse is THEY will be the first to speak the words liberty and freedom! (About a picture showing an obese white couple with their obese child, captioned “We accept everyone’s beliefs, so long as they believe in Jesus”)

    Where is it? Where is the “I hate Muslims” or “Religious people need to be executed”?? He wouldn’t want to ban religion, because that’s “taking away a person’s rights” – isn’t shooting them dead worse?? With Elliot Rodger, there was *plenty* of misogyny all over his own videos and writings, but this guy? He’s posting exclusively enlightened, progressive commentary. What little there is of his own, I’ve quoted most of above; about guns, there’s a single photo (Jan. 20) of a firearm in a holster being weighed – he’s described the gun:

    Yes, that is 1 pound 5.1 ounces for my loaded 38 revolver, its holster, and five extra rounds in a speedloader.

    The End. There’s a single comment about parking issues from Jan. 11. I don’t get it. I really don’t get it. He doesn’t even sound right-wing AT ALL! The only potentially right wing comment was that people who are against hunting should think twice about where the meat they buy at the supermarket comes from.

    I hope he’ll explain himself, because I’m all WTF about this. From what’s on his Facebook page, he sounds like a good guy. What I’m seeing there is completely at odds with what he did. WHAT HAPPENED??

  9. Blanche Quizno says

    I’m kind of stuck here, and here’s why: I know that I have spent quite a bit of time and energy explaining to theists (typically Christians) that atheists are not a cohesive group with ideology/ies in common. Christians and Muslims have historically painted atheists as a cohesive group identified by nasty characteristics – according to Christianity, atheists are “blind”, have “dark and foolish hearts”, and are “fools” who are “corrupt”, guilty of doing “abominable works”, and incapable of “doing good”. In fact, according to Romans 1:20, the existence and nature of God are self-evident, so there is no excuse for not being a Christian. According to Islam, a “painful doom” awaits disbelievers; even Allah Himself is disbelievers’ enemy. Doesn’t really matter what sort of disbelief in this case, although some religions refer to believers of other religions as “atheists” because they do not believe in the One True Religion™’s god/s.

    Why should we feel pressured to adopt these intolerant religions’ definition of us? By taking personally, to whatever degree, the actions of every self-professed atheist out there, we are denying that atheism only defines one particular characteristic – whether or not that person believes in one or more gods – and tacitly accepting the religious claim that “atheism” describes a wide spectrum of human attitudes and behaviors and is, in fact, its own ethical/moral system.

    Fie, I say! FIE! If someone who is a member of, say, American Atheists does something very bad, then let American Atheists address their member’s behavior and ask themselves if they’re doing anything that might encourage or promote that sort of behavior. But the rest of us who don’t have any groupish affiliation, when there is someone who shares a single characteristic with us who does something bad, there is no reason for us to assume any responsibility for that person’s actions. I might as well feel guilty for all the crimes done by blue-eyed people since I, too, have blue eyes! Hey, Pittsburgh Steelers fans! If a Pittsburgh Steelers fan commits an armed robbery, does that prompt you toward soul-searching about whether Pittsburgh Steelers fandom contributes to criminal behavior? I trow not.

    I define myself. I absolutely reject the efforts of religionists of any stripe to define me negatively for their own convenience, and I would encourage everyone else to not submit to this sort of labeling. The fact that some of the only data showing religious affiliation upon prison intake (arrival to serve a sentence) demonstrate that there are lower rates of atheists among the convicted criminal population than among the population at large, that’s all we need.

  10. says

    Sorry, numbed was the wrong word. What I was reaching for was the acceptance I perceive in Americans that it is normal to walk around with a gun. Not that you believe that it is right and I’m sure you are active in campaigns to limit it, but like many other annoyances it seems to be accepted as shit you have to live with.

    I wont speak for all British people but I think I speak for the majority in saying that it is by far the weirdest sight, on a par with rains of fish to see ordinary people walking around city streets with guns. It is damn near incomprehensible.
    Does no one accept the inevitability of that situation? (rhetorical question as asked by anyone from Britain)

    “I don’t know, obviously. It’s sheer speculation. But there is a big gap between going to someone’s door to complain about parking, and shooting three people in the head. A huge gap.”

    Mark Chapman shot John Lennon because of Catcher in the Rye, John Hinckley shot 4 people because he thought it would impress Jodie Foster, Harvey Milk was killed for what? A few imagined slights.

    I’m a middle aged Cis male and this is probably one of the few times around here that I get the opportunity to say shut up and listen. Men are fucking idiots and when we are/perceived to be disrespected, slighted or insulted and we lash out violently and often indiscriminately. The emails and tweets directed at Anita S and Rebecca W are an example of this, the two men I saw fighting in a parking lot the other day over a space is another example. Think about it logically, they were both in such a hurry to find a space that they got out of their cars to have a fight. The fight I had a while back because I saw another bloke cut in front of a queue and called him out on it, even though I wasn’t in the queue is another example of this.

    If you want an other example of how stupidly random male violence is.
    I once watched a ventriloquist insult a man in the audience, the man punched the dummy.

  11. says

    Danny – oh god no. I don’t accept it as normal at ALL. But I also don’t see it. Ever. You say “it is by far the weirdest sight, on a par with rains of fish to see ordinary people walking around city streets with guns” as if that were ubiquitous here. It’s not. Have you ever been to the US? You say that as if you’d seen it, and seen it regularly and often – but I’ve never seen that ever in my life.

    It depends on where you live. There may be parts of the country – Texas springs to mind – where that’s normal, or semi-normal, but it sure as hell isn’t normal where I live.

    Notice that people were bothered that Hicks was walking around with a gun – they didn’t see it as just normal.

    Mind you, now you mention it, I think if a guy with a gun had come to my door I would have reported it to the police – and freaked out.

    But the overall point is – no, no, no, ordinary people walking around with guns is NOT NORMAL here. You have a distorted idea of the US.

  12. Donnie says

    @NateHevens. He who hates straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied men (not really) says

    Someone goes from “STOP PARKING WRONG!”

    I am curious if anyone has confirmed that they were, in fact, parking wrong ? From what I heard is that there was one spot reserved for Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha as the occupants of the condo and they were parking a second car, like most Americans, in a visitor / guest spot. That is in no way, parking wrong. Parking in guests spots in crowded VA suburbs is standard practice. In fact, most parkers in condos like that park in the visitor / guest spot outside the condo leaving the reserved spot for the second car.

    Visitor / guests spots are first-come-first-take. Were Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha parking in the murder’s reserved spot? I would say, ‘No’. If so, the murderer would have called a tow truck and towed the car. Thus, I want more information about what ‘parking wrong’ meant?

    Was it that the murder could not have guests over because there were no guest spots available? If so, that is not parking wrong. Suck it up, buttercup and welcome to life in the big city.

  13. says

    What I was reaching for was the acceptance I perceive in Americans that it is normal to walk around with a gun.

    In most US metropolitan areas, no, it’s not considered normal. A bunch of gun-fondlers are trying to change that, though, by trying to get people to openly carry wherever they go and thus force people to get used to seeing it; but so far, this campaign has not had the desired effect — last I checked, it was mostly taking place in Wal-Mart stores.

  14. governmentman says

    The evidence seems to indicate that he was in favor of gay rights and general social justice. That would tend to suggest that he wouldn’t have found polygamy especially offensive in any case. I also find it unlikely that a person who often thinks and talks about religion would make that kind of erroneous assumption about Muslims anyway.

    The evidence also indicates that he was obsessive about perceived injustices around him, and that his response to these perceptions was to become constantly enraged. This suggests to me that he had a highly neurotic, tightly wound personality, and that he was frustrated and upset all the time about his lack of control over his environment.

    My guess would be that he was just in a perfect storm of rage for whatever reason when he encountered the most recent offense and snapped. I bet that whoever happened to break his view of the social contract on that particular day would have ended up dead, regardless of who they were.

    I’ll also point out that, for all we know, in the absence of a gun he would have been in the same apartment with a bat beating them to death instead. But I know, guns are scary.

  15. says

    governmentman @ #15:

    You can be in favor of marriage rights without being for social justice. Most of the slimepit supports marriage equality as far as I know, yet they spend most of their time spouting Men’s Rights bullshit and harassing feminists without actually admitting to being part of the Men’s Rights Movement. That Craig supported marriage equality means nothing, unfortunately.

    And it is most certainly not a guarantee of him not being Islamophobic.

  16. Barb's Wire says

    Long standing disputes over parking and noise? Neighbours have fought fiercely and even killed over those and similar issues many times in the past without their beliefs regarding gods being brought into the media speculation. Imo there is no gap. I’ve witnessed fighting over those very long-standing issues in my own condo complex – fierce enough that police have been called. If there was a similar gun culture in Canada, people may well have been shot. I think people need to research neighbor killings and see the ridiculous things those people were killed over.

    The media took the opportunity to sensationalize this, muddy the waters, and get a dig in about non-belief in gods and fan the flames of religious prejudice. And they’ve succeeded in creating confusion that too many atheists and others now feel the need to apologize for and to scrutinize disbelief in the supernatural and fairy tales.

  17. Donnie says

    @Barb’s Wire says
    February 13, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    And they’ve succeeded in creating confusion that too many atheists and others now feel the need to apologize for and to scrutinize disbelief in the supernatural and fairy tales.

    Piss the fuck-off right there. Every single fucking atheist should fucking apologize for a member of our community killed someone else for a baseless reason. I have apologized via a donation to the causes Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha supported, because I want the narrative to be “atheists do not kill, and will stand up as a group when someone in our tribe does something shitty like the murder.” Not, “atheists avoid the issue, and wave it off by saying – it’s just about parking” just like when other christian’s say,

    “That abortion doctor should have known. Not that I agree, but that one christian was an extremist, and does not representative of Christianity so piss off and leave us alone”. In other words, “No True Christian” or “No True Atheist”.

    Please, feel free to ignore it because, ‘it is just a parking spot’. the rest of us will be over here trying to make the world a better, and fucking safer, place for atheists and non-atheists because we are in the world together. The murder spoke for us by killing Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha. Now, it is up to us to stand up and show that we do not condone the actions that he did. I, personally, do not have issues apologizing for something that I did not personally do. My ego is not that big that it prevents me from stepping up to the plate and showing the world a compassionate side of atheism even if showing that compassion will not in anyway improve or benefit my personal life.

    Why? Because I am a decent human being. The question is, “Is your ego so big that you do not feel the compulsion to try and correct a wrong?”

  18. luzclara says

    nononono gun toting is not “normal” in the US. I would be terrified if I saw a person walking around Seattle w/a visible weapon. In some areas, even just north of Seattle, in Snohomish County you might see visible weapons. Definitely shotguns displayed on a gun rack in a pick up truck. And who even knows how people have concealed weapons permit. But Hicks made no effort to conceal. The thing is, in the US it is normal-ish to suspect an angry guy is packing heat. And cars, traffic, and parking bring big rage to some people. Road rage is horribly common. It is irrational. I have seen men use cars as weapons at 70 or 80 mph. I want to know if Hicks took a gun w/him each time he took it upon himself to handle parking issues, or if only some people got the John Wayne treatment. My read as far as it goes is legal guns + tightly wound angry man + vigilante identity + adores guns + some kind of serious break + limited or no impulse control (see vigilante ID.) = murder 3 American neighbors who were Muslim. He completely lost it once he pulled the trigger. And until he is advised against it he may desperately want to tell his story. Possibly he does not have a clue abt what was going on in his head. . .

  19. says

    gov’t man @ 15-

    The evidence seems to indicate that he was in favor of gay rights and general social justice. That would tend to suggest that he wouldn’t have found polygamy especially offensive in any case.

    Hmmno. You may be thinking of polyamory. Polygamy doesn’t belong in the box with gay rights and social justice. Don’t forget, it’s multiple wives for (straight) men, not multiple spouses for women and men. It’s about as patriarchal as it gets.

  20. sumdum says

    I haven’t seen anyone making the no true atheist claim. Everyone acknowledges he is atheist, just not everyone agrees that was his motivation.

  21. grumpyoldfart says

    I saw the ex-husband of my neighbor pleading through a locked door for forgiveness. I can’t remember the exact conversation but it went something like this: “Come on sweetheart at least give me a chance to make amends. I promise things will be better this time…” (and a lot more of the same for about five minutes).

    And then, suddenly, in mid-sentence, he bent down, grabbed the bottom of security screen door and bent it upwards until the lock snapped. Then he kicked in the wooden door and within a few seconds he was inside the apartment and chasing his ex-wife from room to room. Probably, if he had a gun, he would have killed her.

    My point is that people like that can change their attitude in the blink of an eye. It is possible that Hicks went to Deah’s house fully intending to get things sorted out quietly and politely but when he didn’t receive the respect he thought he deserved he just went off his head and, unfortunately, he had a gun. It can happen that fast. Even today Hicks is probably thinking to himself, “Shit, I didn’t know that was going to happen.”

    (My neighbour was rescued and the police were quickly on the scene to arrest her ex-husband.)

  22. says

    grumpyoldfart @ #22:

    I totally get where you’re coming from, and I do think it’s a real point to consider about anger. I have anger management issues myself, so there are times when I can go off, and I often get angry at ridiculous things (which is why I don’t do debates… if I have the facts on my side, willful ignorance of those facts on the other side gets me really mad… I tend to avoid serious debates with Creationists, for example, for that reason).

    There’s a problem with that angle in relation to this case, however.

    The killings have been described as “execution style”, because of where and how the victims were shot. If this description is confirmed as accurate by autopsies and whatnot, that implies that there was at least a degree of premeditation. Maybe it was not Craig’s main goal, but if these actually were “execution style” as described, he clearly was considering the possibility, and went with it.

    Often “fly-off-the-handle”, last minute violence isn’t calculated and accurate. To get an “execution style” description, that implies some forethought and planning. Also, I could have sworn I read that only three bullets were fired which, if true, implies accuracy, which means he took the time to aim. Again, that implies some degree of premeditation.

    I’m glad your neighbor was rescued and her ex-husband was arrested. That’s good. And I hope it stayed that way and she’s safe.

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