Authorities in New York City released a sketch Sunday of a suspect believed to be involved in the fatal shooting of a local imam and a friend — as activists, residents and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reacted to the brazen broad-daylight killings.
New York Police Department Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner said in a statement that no motive had yet been determined in the death of imam Maulama Akonjee, 55.
His assistant, Thara Uddin, 64, was also killed in the shooting, Sautner said.
Police said there was nothing to immediately indicate that the men were targeted due to their religion, but they were not ruling that possibility out.
Sautner described the alleged shooter as a man with medium complexion wearing a dark polo shirt and shorts. The man was seen fleeing the scene, in the Ozone Park section of Queens, with a gun in his hand immediately after the two men were shot in the head on Saturday shortly before 2 p.m., authorities said.
Uddin and Akonjee were walking home from Al-Furqan Jame Masjid, which serves Bangladeshi immigrants, at the time of the shooting, NBC New York reported.
Both men were dressed in traditional clothing and Akonjee was carrying roughly $1,000 cash, though it was not taken, the Associated Press reported.
Akonjee was a father of seven who had led the mosque for two years, according to the AP. Worshippers, relatives and neighbors recalled him as a pious and thoughtful imam who could deliver a powerful Quran reading, the AP reported.
During a rally on Saturday night, a leader from another area mosque, Kobir Chowdhury, described the shooting as a hate crime, according to the AP, and in a statement, the Council on Islamic Relations said it had seen an “unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim incidents” around the country since Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.
In a statement, the Trump campaign shot back that it was “highly irresponsible” and “obviously politically-motivated” to blame “these murders” on a candidate.
“Mr. Trump opposes crime and violence in any form and, as president, will work with law enforcement and community leaders to create an environment where tragedies like this never happen again,” the statement said.
Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, also weighed in, saying in a post on Twitter: "The senseless murders of Imam Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin are heartbreaking. This kind of heinous act has no place in America."