Tips from the community helped investigators track down and arrest Muhammad Syed, 51, in connection to the deaths of Muslim men, Albuquerque, New Mexico, police said in a news conference on Tuesday
Police addressed rumors that Shia and Sunni tensions may have led to Syed’s actions, and said while they are aware of that narrative, the motive is still being “explored” by investigators.
“We have heard those things, but we’re not sure if that’s the only motivation,” Kyle Hartsock, Albuquerque police deputy commander, said.
As detectives prepared to search Syed’s home in southeast Albuquerque on Monday, he drove away from the residence in the Volkswagen Jetta that detectives believe was used in at least one of the murders, police said in a news release.
Detectives detained Syed after pulling him over in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, nearly 120 miles from Albuquerque, and then executed a search warrant at his home. They discovered additional evidence that further tied Syed to the murders, according to the release.
Hartsock said investigators have recovered two weapons that may have been used in the killings.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), issued a statement about the arrest on Tuesday, in which the organization “strongly condemned the anti-Shia hatred that may have motivated the killings.”
“Although we are waiting to learn more about these crimes, we are disturbed by early indications that the alleged killer may have been targeting particular members of the Shia community. If this is true, it is completely unacceptable, and we encourage law enforcement to file any appropriate hate crime charges against the suspect,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said.
Syed immigrated to the US from Afghanistan, according to Hartsock. The official said that the investigation remains active.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been vocal on social media about the attacks and said she’s “relieved” that the primary suspect is in custody.
“I'm relieved that a primary suspect in the killings of Muslim men in Albuquerque is in custody,” Lujan Grisham said in a tweet. “My deepest gratitude goes out to the law enforcement officers involved for their tireless work, and my heart goes out to the victims, their loved ones, and all those in the community.”