By SCOTT SMITH, Associated Press
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A man wanted in the slaying of a motel security guard set out to kill as many white people as he could, gunning down three men on the streets of downtown Fresno before he was captured and admitted to the killings, the city’s police chief said Tuesday.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, was motivated by hate and was not connected to extremism, even though he said “Allahu akbar” during his arrest.
“This is solely based on race, and it had nothing to do with terrorism in spite of the statement he made,” Dyer said at a news conference.
Muhammad, who is black, fired 16 rounds in one minute at four places within a block, shooting men who appeared to be going about their day, authorities say.
He walked up to a utility truck and shot a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. employee sitting in the passenger seat, authorities say. The driver of the truck, who is Latino, sped off to the police department for help, but the worker, a 34-year-old white man, died.
Muhammad then shot at another person and missed. He aimed at a third, killing the 37-year-old on the sidewalk as he walked with a bag of groceries in a neighborhood lined with tall trees, authorities say. The final victim, 58, was gunned down in the parking lot of a charity building.
Dyer said Muhammad approached a vehicle in between shootings, but he spared the lives of two women who were in the car with a child. The women were Latina, he said.
“These individuals who were chosen today did not do anything to deserve what they got,” he said earlier in the day. “These were unprovoked attacks by an individual that was intent on carrying out homicides today. He did that.”
Police had put out a news release hours before the shootings Tuesday, saying that Muhammad was armed and dangerous and wanted in the shooting death of a security guard at a Motel 6 last week. The guard, 25-year-old Carl Williams, was white.
Muhammad told officers at his arrest that he was the guy they were looking for, Dyer said.
“I did it. I shot them,” Dyer said Muhammad told officers.
Police are searching for the revolver he said he tossed into a pile of clothing. The gun may have been picked up by someone else, Dyer said.
Stephen Hughes, 66, said he and his wife rushed home Tuesday 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. “It looks like a guy carrying his groceries home from the store,” Hughes 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.” On several occasions, he wrote updates that included the phrase “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is great” in Arabic.
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 say.
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.” A psychiatrist who examined Muhammad believed he had psychosis, Muhammad’s attorney said in the court filing.
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.
Public records list Muhammad as Cory Taylor and other aliases with addresses in Fresno and Sacramento. A woman who identified herself as Taylor’s grandmother said Tuesday that the family last saw him on Easter Sunday. She hung up the phone before giving her name.
Authorities spotted Muhammad running and took him into custody. Police are looking for the revolver.
Police say two of the victims may have been clients of Catholic Charities, which provides a variety of services for refugees, the homeless and those with disabilities.
Contributing to this report are Associated Press writers Kristin J. Bender, Olga R. Rodriguez and Janie Har in San Francisco; Jonathan J. Cooper and Don Thompson in Sacramento; Mike Balsamo in Los Angeles; and researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York City.