NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, August 15, 2016, 10:45 AM
The coldblooded killer who gunned down a revered Queens imam and his friend may have been settling a petty neighborhood beef between Muslims and Hispanics, police sources said early Monday.
Investigators were questioning the suspect taken into custody late Sunday night, and were pursuing the possibility that the killing may have been a deranged escalation of a recent dispute over parking, according to sources.
But those sources cautioned that was only one of several possibilities detectives were exploring. Police had not yet ruled out the possibility the brazen daylight executions were a hate crime.
Police officials declined to identify the suspect who had not yet been charged.
But sources said the killer — who carried out the shooting with ruthless efficiency, shooting both Maulama Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 65, at close range in the head Saturday afternoon — may have gotten sloppy after pulling the trigger.
Police suspected the gunman may have hit a bicyclist with his car shortly after the shooting, sources said.
Members of Al-Furqan Jame Mosque show a sketch of the suspect.
The cyclist wrote the down the car’s license plate and notified police, according to sources.
The make of the ride matched descriptions of the car witnesses described fleeing the shooting, leading police to the suspect, sources said.
An NYPD Regional Fugitive Task Force then conducted what turned out to “brief surveillance” of the suspect, who rammed an unmarked police car shortly after they began spying on him, sources said.
Police then arrested the suspected gunman.
The killings had left residents of Ozone Park scared and angry. Akonjee, who had moved to the U.S. from Bangladesh two years ago, was widely respected at the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque.
A sketch of the suspected gunman.
Many said they believed the shootings were a hate crime carried out by a Muslim-hating maniac.
“This incident is totally, in my opinion — maybe I’m wrong — a hate crime,” said Misba Abdin, 47, a community leader in the neighborhood.
He added that the theory a parking dispute sparked the killing was “totally gossip.”
Uddin’s nephew, Rezwan Uddin, 27, agreed.
“Everyone is mixed here, and everyone knew the imam,” he said.
Imam Maulama Akonjee was gunned down in broad daylight, along with his friend, Thara Uddin.
“There is no conflict (between Muslims and Hispanics). We see it as a hate crime.”
He added that both the imam and Uddin didn’t speak English well and were quiet and pious, so it was unlikely to him that either was personally involved in a heated dispute over parking.
To Abdin, however, there were conflicts between some Muslims and Latinos.
“There is a tension,” he said.