Tuesday, police reported a breakthrough in the slayings of four Muslim males in Albuquerque, New Mexico, charging a Muslim man from Afghanistan with two of the murders and designating him as a prime suspect in the other slayings.
Muhammad Syed, 51, of Albuquerque, was apprehended on Monday during a traffic stop more than 100 miles from his residence. The immigrant from Afghanistan denied any involvement in the crimes.
According to court filings, he told officers he was so disturbed by the murders that he was traveling to Houston to relocate his family.
However, investigators said they have adequate proof of his guilt, albeit they have yet to determine the motive. The first ambush-style shooting occurred in November, with three more occurring between July 26 and August 5.
According to the criminal complaint, bullet casings found in Syed's vehicle matched the caliber of the firearms thought to have been used in two of the murders, and cases found at the crime scenes were linked to guns found in Syed's home and vehicle.
According to authorities, Syed knew the victims, and "an interpersonal conflict may have precipitated the shootings."
Wednesday, prosecutors filed a motion to hold Syed without bond until trial. They stated, "He is a very dangerous individual, and the only way to protect the community is to keep him in custody."
While executing a search warrant, authorities seized a 9 mm handgun from his vehicle and discovered a rifle and a pistol at the family home. According to court documents, the weapons were legally purchased last month, and Syed purchased the rifle at a local gun shop, while his son Shaheen Syed purchased the pistol.
On Wednesday, federal authorities charged Shaheen Syed with providing a phony Florida address when he purchased two firearms last year. He has denied involvement in the murders and has not been charged with them.
According to investigators, Muhammad Syed has lived in the United States for almost five years. The criminal complaint states that when quizzed by detectives, Syed talked via a Pashto interpreter and said he had served with special forces in Afghanistan and fought against the Taliban.
The police say they are investigating a variety of plausible motives. Tuesday at a press conference, Deputy Police Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock would not react immediately when asked if Sunni Muslim Syed was furious that his daughter married a Shiite Muslim. According to him, "motives are still being thoroughly investigated to determine what they are."
On Tuesday, Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, confirmed that "there was a marriage" but advised against drawing inferences about the motivations of the suspect, who occasionally attended the mosque.
CNN had an interview with Syed's daughter before the announcement of her father's arrest. She stated that her spouse was acquainted with two of the deceased individuals. She also confessed that her father was initially displeased about her 2018 wedding but had become more accepting in recent months.
"My father is not a murderer," the woman told CNN, which did not reveal her identity out of concern for her safety. "My father has always emphasized peace." This is the reason why we are in the United States. We arrived from Afghanistan, where we fought."
According to court filings, a boyfriend of Syed's daughter alleged to police in 2017 that Syed, his wife, and one of their boys had punched and kicked him before driving away. The boyfriend, who was discovered with a bloody nose, scrapes, and bruises, claimed to police he was assaulted because they did not want him to date her.
According to court documents, Syed was detained in May 2018 after a disagreement with his wife turned violent. Both cases were dismissed, according to prosecutors, because the victims chose not to prosecute charges.
According to court documents, Syed was also arrested in 2020 for refusing to pull over for police after running a red light. However, that case was subsequently dismissed.
The oldest incident was the murder of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan in November.
Pakistani man 25 years of age, Naeem Hussain, was slain last Friday. Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussain, 41, also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque, died just days before him.
Investigators believe Syed is the prime suspect in the deaths of Naeem Hussain and Ahmadi, although they have not yet filed charges in those cases.
Naeem Hussain's brother-in-law, Ehsan Chahalmi, described him as a "generous, kind, giving, forgiving, and loving soul who has been taken from us forever."
On Monday, as police were ready to investigate Syed's Albuquerque house, they spotted him leaving in a Volkswagen Jetta that detectives suspect was used in at least one of the murders.