Fresno gunman targeting whites chose 3 men at random

Scott Smith
Associated Press

Fresno, Calif. — The black gunman suspected of randomly shooting three men to death in downtown Fresno told police he wanted to kill as many white people as possible before he was captured, authorities said.

The victims happened to be on the same block at the same time Tuesday but had no known connection to each other or to Kori Ali Muhammad, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

“These were unprovoked attacks,” Dyer said.

One victim, a 34-year-old father of two preschoolers, was shot in the passenger seat of a Pacific Gas & Electric utility truck. The driver was not hit and sped toward the police department, but his partner could not be saved.

Another victim, a 37-year-old man, had just gone shopping at a Catholic Charities building when he was gunned down. His body was draped in a blanket on the sidewalk leading to Stephen Hughes’ home.

“It looks like a guy carrying his groceries home from the store,” said Hughes, 66, who rushed home after receiving a frantic call about the shootings from a neighbor.

The third victim, a 59-year-old man, was gunned down in the parking lot of the charity’s building.

Two Latina women and a child also crossed paths with Muhammad, who pointed the gun at them as they sat in their car trying to flee, but he did not shoot.

Muhammad, 39, was arrested shortly after the rampage. He was expected to be charged with four counts of murder — one each for Tuesday’s three victims plus the slaying of a white Motel 6 security guard who was killed last week.

Police had been looking for Muhammad in the death of the guard, 25-year-old Carl Williams. Muhammad said seeing his name and picture in a news release Tuesday morning helped spur the attacks in which he fired 16 rounds in less than two minutes at four places within a block.

“I did it. I shot them,” Muhammad told officers as they arrested him, according to the chief.

During the arrest, Muhammad shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” but the shootings had “nothing to do with terrorism in spite of the statement he made,” Dyer said.

“This is solely based on race,” he said.

Muhammad told his family there was a war going on between blacks and whites in America.

Muhammad’s father, Vincent Taylor, told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that his son believed that he was part of an ongoing war between whites and blacks and that “a battle was about to take place.”

Police were searching for the revolver Muhammad said he tossed into a pile of clothing. The gun may have been picked up by someone else, Dyer said.

On what appeared to be Muhammad’s Facebook page, he repeatedly posted “#LetBlackPeopleGo” and encouraged “black warriors” to “mount up.” A flurry of posts emerged in the past day.

He wrote that his “kill rate increases tremendously on the other side” and also posted about “white devils,” themes he dwelled on in hip-hop videos that he posted on YouTube.

Muhammad has a criminal history that includes arrests on weapons, drugs and false imprisonment charges and making terrorist threats. He had been associated with gangs, but he was not a confirmed member, police said.

Muhammad was charged in 2005 with possessing cocaine with intent to distribute, court records show. Federal prosecutors said at the time that he was also in possession of a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and two rifles after being convicted of a felony.

He claimed insanity, and his attorney requested a psychiatric examination for his client, saying Muhammad “appeared eccentric with some bizarre beliefs.”

He also “suffered auditory hallucinations and had at least two prior mental health hospitalizations,” according to court documents. His attorney said that Muhammad had “paranoia” and thought the justice system and his defense attorney were conspiring against him, court papers said.

The attorney who represented Muhammad in that case did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

A woman who identified herself as Taylor’s grandmother said Tuesday that the family last saw him on Sunday. She hung up the phone before giving her name.

“I never would have thought he would do anything like this,” said Muhammad’s brother, who asked not to be identified by name. “I’m just kind of shocked.”