(CN) - A 46-year-old man shot three Muslim students dead Tuesday at a condominium complex near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, likely because of an ongoing dispute over a parking space, authorities said.
Police arrested Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, from Chapel Hill after he turned himself in to authorities. The victims were Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19, Chapel Hill police said in a statement.
Yusor and Razan's father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, called the shootings "execution style" and a "hate crime." All three were shot in the head, authorities reported.
Although a Facebook page in Hicks' name described him as a supporter of "Atheists for Equality," blasting "radical Christians and radical Muslims" for inciting strife in the world, police said an "ongoing neighbor dispute over parking" may have led to the deaths.
"This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime," Abu-Salha told the Raleigh News and Observer. "This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far."
Randy Tysinger, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, said the Chapel Hill police investigation is in the early stages, and the federal prosecutor's office would wait for more details before deciding whether to launch a federal hate crime investigation.
Barakat was studying dentistry at UNC, while his wife and sister-in-law were attending North Carolina State University. Barakat and his wife, who were married on Dec. 27, worked for a charity that provided dental care to people in the United States and the Middle East.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt is expected to make a statement sometime Wednesday. Meanwhile, the university said, "We are sensitive to the impact an incident of this nature has on campus and in the community. We understand you want to know the facts as quickly as possible. At the same time, we must respect the job our Chapel Hill police have as they investigate this crime."
Hicks is being held at Durham County Jail without bond.
Students at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State are planning vigils to remember the slain students. The UNC vigil will take place Wednesday night at Peace and Justice Plaza beginning at 7 p.m., and the NCSU vigil will take place Thursday at The Brickyard from 6 to 8 p.m.