Race is what drove a homeless African-American man in Fresno to shoot and kill three white men on Tuesday - bringing his homicide total to four since last week, the city's police chief said during a news conference.
"We don't believe it's a terrorist act," Police Chief Jerry Dyer told reporters about the Tuesday rampage led by suspect Kori Ali Muhammad. "We believe it's a hate crime.
Dyer said the incident ended with Muhammad, 39, shouting "Allahu Akbar" - Arabic for "God is great" - as police took him down to the ground.
Muhammad sought to kill as many white people as possible, Dyer said. The shootings were random, he added. "This is solely based on race," he said.
The Fresno police chief also told reporters that the suspect's Facebook page included posts that expressed hate for white people.
Muhammad also was wanted in connection with the fatal shooting Thursday night of a security guard at a Motel 6 who was responding to a disturbance, Lt. Mark Hudson, Fresno police department public information officer, confirmed to USA TODAY.
The victim in that shooting also was a white male, Dyer said.
Dyer said Muhammad has been arrested in the past on weapons, drugs and false imprisonment charges and making terrorist threats. He had been associated with gangs but was not a validated member, police said. Muhammad was living on the streets and most people had “disassociated” themselves from him, the chief said.
Dyer told reporters that the victims were shot minutes apart as Muhammad made his way through downtown.
The shootings happened outside a Catholic Charities building, but spokeswoman Teresa Dominguez told the Associated Press that the charity does not believe the suspect was tied to the nonprofit organization.
Sayed Ali Ghazvini, imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, said Muhammad was not a member of his congregation and he did not recognize him. The imam said he is consulting with other faith leaders.
"We're kind of shocked and surprised for what happened," the Associated Press quoted Ghazvini as saying. "We are very sorry for this to happen. We offer condolences for the victims. We pray for the victims and their families."
In a statement published to its Facebook page, the center condemned the killings and explained that "Allahu Akbar" is a prayer of peace.
"When someone utters these beautiful words and commits violent acts, it brings pain to our community and crushes our hearts," the statement read. "We condemn the acts of this criminal in the strongest terms and we stand with our community and city in support and brotherhood."
Muhammad first fired shots late Tuesday morning into a Pacific Gas & Electric vehicle, killing the passenger, police said. He shot at a second person on the street, but missed, police said. He then shot and killed two more people near the who, Dyer said, might have been clients of nearby Catholic Charities.
PG&E released a statement following the shooting: "Our hearts are very heavy today, as we have lost a member of our PG&E family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of our employee, and all those impacted by this tragic event."
Muhammad faces four counts of murder and two of attempted murder, according to Dyer.
Following the shooting, Fresno city spokesman Mark Standriff said county offices were placed on lockdown, and people were urged to shelter in place.
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