Police said the man who killed three people on a shooting spree in downtown Fresno, California, on Tuesday while shouting “Allahu Akbar” wanted to kill as many people as possible after a warrant was released for his arrest in the murder of a motel security guard last week.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, knew he was being searched for and he “decided he was going to kill more people.”
According to Dyer, Muhammad surrendered to officers at the scene and told police “you guys are looking for me.”
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Police do not think the shooting spree was tied to terrorism and was “solely based on race” as all the victims were white males.
Muhammad went by the nickname “Black Jesus” and has made posts against white people and the government on his Facebook page.
“These individuals who were chosen today did not do anything to deserve what they got,” Dyer said. “These were unprovoked attacks by an individual that was intent on carrying out homicides today. He did that.”
The shooting spree began around 10:45 a.m. local time, when one person was shot in a PG&E utility truck, a second person was shot on Fulton Street and a third person was shot in the parking lot of Catholic Charities, FOX 26 News reported.
Dyer said the victims were aged 34, 37, and 58.
Police said Muhammad also pointed his gun at two woman and a toddler in a car but did not shoot.
All three shooting locations were close to each other in the downtown area. Around 16 shots were fired during the shooting spree, police said.
“What we know is that this was a random act of violence,” Dyer said. “There is every reason to believe he acted alone.”
Stephen Hughes, 66, said he and his wife rushed home after receiving a frantic call from a neighbor. Hughes came home to see a body draped in a blanket on the sidewalk leading to his front door.
He first thought the shooting was gang-related, but then he noticed the bag of groceries near the body.
“This guy doesn’t look like a drug guy. It looks like a guy carrying his groceries home from the store,” Hughes said.
Muhammad was already wanted in connection to the killing of an unarmed security guard at a Motel 6 last week, police said. He now faces four counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder, according to court records.
It’s too soon to say whether Muhammad, who was homeless, had ties to any militant groups or causes, Dyer said. Muhammad has a criminal history that includes arrests on weapons, drugs and false imprisonment charges and making terrorist threats, police say. He had been associated with gangs but was not a validated member.
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.” On several occasions, he wrote updates that included the phrase “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is great” in Arabic.
“Our thoughts are with all involved in the incident that occurred in Fresno today,” PG&E said in a statement. “Public and employee safety is always our top priority. We are still gathering information on what happened, and will work to support first responders and law enforcement in their efforts.”
Dyer said Fresno police have called the FBI to assist in the investigation. FBI officials told Fox News the agency is not treating the shooting as an incident of terror, but is sending agents to the scene at request of local police.
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said it was “a sad day for us all” in a statement to FOX 26.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims. None of us can imagine what they must be going through. I am grateful for the quick and decisive response of our Police Department in preventing further senseless violence,” he said.
“If there were ways to prevent tragedies like this in the future, I would not hesitate in using them. Again, my heart goes out to the families that lost loved ones today.”
Muhammad made other statements to police, but Dyer did not disclose what they were.
The imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno told the Associated Press that Muhammad was not a member of his center.
Seyed Ali Ghazvini told the AP that he and other faith leaders are trying to identify gunman.
“We’re kind of shocked and surprised for what happened,” Ghazvini told the AP. “We are very sorry for this to happen. We offer condolences for the victims, we pray for the victims and their families.”
One of the shooting scenes happened outside a Catholic Charities building, but officials don’t believe the suspect was tied to the nonprofit organization.
Teresa Dominguez, chancellor for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, told the Fresno Bee the diocese is providing support for those who witnessed the shooting.
“The diocese will be present to the needs of all those serving as witnesses to this violent and traumatic event,” she told the newspaper, “such as counseling and pastoral care, and Bishop Ochoa asks for the prayer of all the faithful for the victims of this violent crime and their families, and that law enforcement will be successful in the their investigation in identifying the perpetrator.”
Following the shooting, Fresno city spokesman Mark Standriff said county offices were placed on lockdown, and people were urged to shelter in place.