Our Three Winners Foundation: Statement on Court Proceeding

On February 10, 2015, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. On June 12, 2019, over four years later, their killer finally pleaded guilty in court to three counts of murder and one count of discharging a firearm into an occupied building. He accepted three consecutive life sentences without parole.

We welcome the results of the hearing and the evidence that clearly showed the murders were motivated by the killer’s hatred of Muslims. A previously undisclosed video, recorded by Deah during the tragedy unbeknownst to the killer, was shown to the court. The video clearly demonstrates the hatred the killer had for the victims, the disrespect with which he approached them, and the disregard he had for their beautiful lives. We were able to reclaim the narrative and definitively put to bed the false claim that these murders were over a parking dispute.

Samuel Sommers, a Professor of Psychology/Behavioral Science at Tufts University, testified at the hearing that "[t]he cell phone video of the shootings shows no evidence of disrespect [from the three victims] – indeed, there was insufficient time for much interaction before Hicks began shooting,”. "Similarly, Hicks' efforts to explain wounds on his hand as possibly the result of a physical altercation initiated by Barakat are not supported in any way by the cell phone video of the shootings." Professor Sommers concluded, "[t]hese were not random victims of a parking dispute.... these victims were seen and interacted with differently because of who they were."

We are grateful to Chris Blue, Chapel Hill Police Chief, for his statement today expressing regret over the Police Department’s failure to recognize the murders as a hate crime four years ago.

What we all know now and what I wish we had said four years ago is that the murders of Deah, Yusor, and Razan were about more than simply a parking dispute. The man who committed these murders undoubtedly did so with a hateful heart, and the murders represented the taking of three promising lives by someone who clearly chose not to see the humanity and the goodness in them.  To the Abu-Salha and Barakat families, we extend our sincere regret that any part of our message all those years ago added to the pain you experienced through the loss of Our Three Winners.”

At the hearing, Dr. Suzanne Barakat, Deah's sister, said to the defendant, "I see you looking at me. And I have questions for you. 36 seconds. That's how long it took for you to shatter our lives forever. Why? How? Was it worth it?" Yousef Abu-Salha, Razan and Yusor's brother, also addressed the court, "I'm not speaking today to feel better. That will not be accomplished....I'm speaking today because it has to be heard. Today is a day of justice...As God as my witness, the real day of judgement awaits you."

While nothing can bring true closure to the families, Our Three Winners Foundation is committed to fighting hate and bias so that no other family has to endure this kind of loss. While we know the road ahead will be difficult, we will continue to take on prejudice, bias, and hate through various programs, including our new Social Inclusion Policy Fellowship.

We are dedicated to supporting survivors of hate violence everywhere and to influencing a new generation of leaders who will address negative social constructions and narratives in the policy making process. We are also committed to working with members of the media, to ensure they are able to recognize their own biases and to resist bigotry in all its forms.

As we continue to honor the legacy of Our Three Winners, we would like to thank everyone who has stood by us these last four years. We hope that you will consider supporting the work of our foundation, which will forever honor the memory and lives of Deah, Yusor, and Razan.

Together we can build a world where injustice is an aberration, justice is the norm, and where marginalized communities are able to live in peace and prosperity.

In Solidarity,

Our Three Winners Foundation