(Reuters) - A black man accused of shooting three people to death in Fresno, California, wanted to kill as many white men as possible because he expected to be arrested for another shooting, police said on Wednesday, calling the incident a hate crime.
Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, fatally shot the three white men in downtown Fresno on Tuesday after realizing he was wanted for the killing of a white security guard last week, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.
“Kori Muhammad is not a terrorist, but he is a racist, and he is filled with hate, and he set out this week to kill as many people as he could,” Dyer told a news conference on Wednesday.
Muhammad, who is being held without bail, has not been formally charged with the deaths of Zackary Randalls, Mark Gassett and David Jackson on Tuesday or Carl Williams last week. It was unclear whether he had obtained an attorney.
The FBI is examining Tuesday’s killings as a possible hate crime or act of terrorism but has not yet made an official determination.
Dyer said Muhammad, who went by the nickname Black Jesus, began the series of shootings in the central California city last Thursday when he had a confrontation with a security guard at a motel.
He had been asked to leave the motel and opened fire because he felt disrespected, the police chief said.
On Tuesday morning, he visited a Starbucks and logged onto the Web, where he learned police were seeking him for last week’s shooting, Dyer said.
“What he told our detectives last night was that once he saw he was wanted for murder, he was not going to go down for shooting a security guard for disrespecting him, but that he was going to kill as many white males as possible,” Dyer said on Wednesday.
Police allege Muhammad opened fire 17 times as he walked and ran along several blocks in Fresno, killing the three men in less than four minutes.
He surrendered while shouting: “Allahu Akhbar,” which means “God is great” in Arabic, police said, adding they had not yet recovered the weapon Muhammad discarded.
In the past, Muhammad posted messages on social media that referred to white people as “devils.”
Prosecutors plan to review the case against Muhammad on Thursday and he could be arraigned in court on Friday.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney