Authorities in Indiana are investigating the deaths of three young men who were murdered "execution-style" and found by police in a house in Fort Wayne on 24 February. The men, who reportedly came from Africa's eastern Sahel region, had been shot multiple times, police said.
The three victims were identified as 17-year-old Muhannad Tairab, 20-year-old Adam Mekki and 23-year-old Mohamedtaha Omar. According to WPTA-TV, the victims were discovered inside a home police referred to as a "party house" on East Lewis Street. The Allen County Coroner's Office announced the men had died of gunshot wounds and ruled the deaths homicides.
The Washington Post reported that initial reports stated the victims were Muslim, but Darfur People's Association founder and vice president Motasim Adam told The Associated Press that Omar and Tairab were Muslim and Mekki was Christian.
The home where the victims were found was a place with little supervision, police said. However, it was on the radar of Fort Wayne police's gang and violent crimes unit. The victims did not have any known gang affiliations. "A lot of people would come and go to the residence," Police Chief Garry Hamilton told The Journal Gazette. "We talked to neighbours, and a lot of young people would come and go to this house."
Public Safety Director Rusty York, who described the killings as "execution style," told WANE TV that police believe the murders happened shortly before authorities were called. "With that many people involved, victims, it's hard for one person to commit that act by themselves so there had to be some other people present," Hamilton added.
"These young people were just starting out their lives, and now, they've lost their lives. I need to citizens of Fort Wayne to support us to give us this information and anyone with information about this to help solve this case," Hamilton continued. Both York and Hamilton said authorities were "pretty certain" the three victims were not targeted for their religion.
York said, "Hopefully, you know, we'll be able to focus in on exactly what the reason was, but as I said before, no reason to believe this was any type of hate crime, or focused because of their religion or their nationality whatsoever."
However, Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said many in the Muslim community have compared the murders to the three Muslims who were killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina a year ago. "People think back to the Chapel Hill murders where the family and Muslim community firmly believes it is a bias motive," Hooper said. "They look at this and see a similar kind of thing so that's in everyone's mind. It brings back those memories and concerns."
The Washington Post noted that many on social media maintain that there is a link between the men's religion and their murders and have used the hashtag #OurThreeBoys on Twitter. Hamilton said he has met with the victims' families and members of the city's African community. He also told The Journal Gazette that he has asked the FBI to help find a link between the victim's religion and their deaths.