Detectives are now questioning a person of interest in connection with the cold-blooded shooting of two prominent members of an Ozone Park mosque on Saturday afternoon.
The NYPD confirmed reports published on Monday morning that a suspect is being questioned, but that individual has yet to be charged with a crime.
The person of interest is being interrogated about the murders of Imam Maulama Akomjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, the respective leader and assistant at the nearby Al-Furqan Jame Masjid Mosque on Glenmore Avenue, who were shot at the corner of 79th Street and Liberty Avenue at about 1:50 p.m. on August 13.
According to police, Akomjee and Uddin, both of whom resided on the same block of 102nd Avenue, were walking northbound on 79th Street and were about to turn onto Liberty Avenue when the unidentified shooter approached them from behind.
Without exchanging any words, the gunman, who is described as a man with a medium complexion wearing a dark blue polo shirt and carrying a large handgun, shot them both in the head. He was then seen fleeing southbound on 79th Street.
Officers from the 106th Precinct and EMS units rushed to the scene. Both men were rushed to Jamaica Hospital and died of their injuries.
Police obtained security camera footage of the shooting and descriptions of the suspect from witnesses. On Sunday, the NYPD released a sketch of the gunman.
The NYPD has not yet declared the double murder a hate crime, though many in the neighborhood believe the victims were targeted due to their Muslim faith, according to WABC-TV.
Residents in the heavily Bangladeshi community held an impromptu rally. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) New York chapter held a press conference Saturday night condemning the murders and calling on the killer to be quickly brought to justice.
“The perpetrator of these senseless killings must be swiftly apprehended and face the full force of the law,” said CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher. “We ask anyone with information about this attack to contact appropriate law enforcement authorities.”
The CAIR also announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter.
Elected officials across the city also expressed their outrage over the attacks on social media.
“When religious leaders are targeted, we all bear the pain those in Ozone Park feel most personally today,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement on Sunday. “While we do not yet know the motivation for the murders of Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin, we do know that our Muslim communities are in the perpetual crosshairs of bigotry. It remains critical that we work to bridge the divides that threaten to undermine the greatness of our city and country. Rest assured that our NYPD will bring this killer to justice.”
“I stand in strong solidarity with all Muslim New Yorkers tonight as we mourn the killings of Imam Maulama Akonjee & Tharam Uddin,” tweeted City Councilman Eric Ulrich. “When a religious leader is killed in broad daylight on the streets of Queens, we must come together as a community and demand justice!” He would add, “In every corner of my district, my constituents are concerned about their safety. Crime is a serious issue & one that needs to be addressed.”
“Tragic killing of Iman in Ozone Park must be investigated as a hate crime,” tweeted Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.
Former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also condemned the murder in a tweet: “The senseless murders of Imam Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin are heartbreaking. This kind of heinous act has no place in America.”
Anyone with information about the double homicide or the suspect’s whereabouts is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), followed by TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.
Check back later with QNS for further details on these developing stories.