International desk –Investigators have charged a 32-year old man for killing a Bangladeshi-born Imam and his assistance in New York, police said on Tuesday.
Oscar Morel, 35, on Monday night was charged with two counts of second-degree murder of Imam Akonjee, 55, and aide Thara Uddin, 64, in South Ozone Park, The New York Post newspaper reported quoting officials.
Police have not yet speculated on a motive, but Morel’s brother insisted that his anger at Muslims over 9/11 was only “temporary” and he now “definitely has no hate for the Muslims.”
“We’re Catholic-school kids — we don’t do this,” Alvin added. “He’s a good guy.”
Meanwhile, sources said Monday that Oscar Morel admitted to cops that he was at the scene at the time of the slaying and that he is the person caught on video sneaking up behind the pair.
But he insists he never shot anyone.
“I did not shoot the guy,’’ Morel told the cops, according to sources.
But NYPD officials don’t buy it.
“We believe because of the evidence . . . that this is the individual,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Monday.
That evidence includes a revolver found at Morel’s home that matches the type of gun detectives believe was used in the shooting. Police are also testing powder residue on his clothes.
“We can’t explain why he was there,” Boyce said. But “he was [at the scene] approximately eight minutes before the homicide.”
The brother, Alvin, said Oscar worked as a school janitor.
“I spoke to him just last [Sunday] evening, and he was all nonchalant, like nothing has happened,’’ the brother said.
The suspect is Hispanic, and some police sources and local residents have noted simmering tensions in the largely Hispanic neighborhood as the Bangladeshi Muslim population there grows.
But “preliminarily, [police] don’t have a motive for the shooting,” a law-enforcement source insisted. “They don’t know what it’s about . . . They know it was a hit; the guy came up from behind and shot them. But they don’t have a motive.”
At a press conference, police explained how cops were able to track down the suspect through his Chevy TrailBlazer. Surveillance footage showed the killer hopping into the SUV after shooting.
Detectives immediately entered the vehicle into their database system — and 10 minutes later, there was a reported hit-and-run in Brooklyn involving a bicyclist and a TrailBlazer that matched the description of the killer’s vehicle.
“The hit-and-run happened at Pine and Pitkin about three miles away from mosque,” Boyce noted.
Authorities tracked the TrailBlazer to East New York, where the suspect hopped into the vehicle and “rammed the detectives’ car several times in an effort to get away,” Boyce said.
Oscar Morel was taken into custody at around 11 p.m., sources said, and charged with murder and as hit-and-run.
Meanwhile, the funeral of the slain Bangladeshi nationals was conducted in New York where several hundred Muslims gathered.
The New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a message offered condolence.
In Islam, the loss of a person is regarded not just as a loss for their family but for the entire community. That’s something we as New Yorkers understand, across all faiths, across all neighborhoods.