A man suspected of killing at least two Muslim men in New Mexico in recent months is believed to have targeted victims over “interpersonal conflict,” officials said Tuesday.
Albuquerque Police Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock told reporters that the suspect, 51-year-old Muhammad Syed, was arrested on Monday after a tipster contacted officers.
Syed is charged with the murders of Aftab Hussain, 41, and Muhammad Afzal Hussain, 27, on July 26 and August 1, Hartsock said.
He is a suspect in the murders of 25-year-old Naeem Hussain on August 5 and Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, on November 7, but authorities are still investigating those cases, Hartsock said.
Hartsock declined to elaborate on a possible motive. In a news release, the department said the victims knew Syed “to some extent, and an interpersonal conflict” may have led to the firing.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez said there was a potential for murder charges in the case.
Hartsock said Syed was taken into custody after officers obtained a search warrant for his home. He was seen boarding the same car – a gray Volkswagen Jetta – linked to at least one murder.
Officers followed him to Santa Rosa, 100 miles east of Albuquerque, and pulled him over, Hartsock said. Syed was arrested without incident.
At Syed’s home, officers found several guns, including one that officials believe was used in the fatal shootings of Aftab Hussain and Muhammad Afzal Hussain.
Syed is believed to have come to the United States from Afghanistan in recent years, Hartsock said. His immigration status was unclear.
Hartsock said Syed was arrested in Albuquerque for certain misdemeanors, but could not provide additional details.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said he hoped Monday’s arrest would “bring back a sense of security to the Muslim community.”
“This crime made our community feel like it was being attacked,” he told a news conference.
Police said the most recent murder occurred just before midnight on Friday at the edge of a community called the International District in the city’s southeast.
Naeem Hussain has been identified as the victim.
Minutes after the police announced the arrest, Hussain’s brother-in-law, Ehsan Shahlami, expressed hope that only one person was responsible for the bloodshed.
“We hope this is the end of this massacre and everyone else will be safe,” said Shahlami, 37, who lives in Virginia. “I’m hoping it’s just one person, not many people involved.”
The first attack that may be linked to the violence occurred on 7 November when Mohamed Ahmadi was found dead behind a halal meat business with his brother.
Officials said the two other killings were the killings of Pakistani immigrants Aftab Hussain and Muhammad Afzal Hussain near the University of New Mexico.
Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, brother of Muhammad Afzal Hussain, said he was hopeful that life could return to normal with this week’s arrest.
The grieving brother said, “I am glad the suspect has been arrested. We are relieved. Now we can take our kids to the park. We can go shopping. We don’t feel that fear anymore. We do.