A grand jury handed down on Monday a first-degree murder charge for a Brooklyn man accused of executing an Ozone Park imam and his assistant on a neighborhood street earlier this month.
Oscar Morel, 35, was arrested on Aug. 15 for fatally shooting Imam Maulana Akonjee and Thara Uddin on the afternoon of Aug. 13 as they walked home from afternoon prayers at the Al-Furquan Jame Masjid mosque on Glenmore Avenue in Ozone Park.
The grand jury’s indictment of Morel on Aug. 22 includes one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. He remains held in jail without bail.
The first-degree murder count, he noted, reflects that Morel allegedly acted with intent to cause someone’s death.
“The defendant’s alleged actions strike at the very heart of our county’s Muslim community,” Brown said in a statement on Monday. “Both victims were gentle men of peace and their deaths are a devastating loss to their families and the community that they served.”
Law enforcement sources said Morel walked up to the imam and Uddin in the vicinity of 79th Street and Liberty Avenue at about 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 13. Without saying a word, he allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Akonjee and Uddin in the head, then fled the scene.
Both men were rushed to local hospitals and later died of their injuries.
Police tracked down Morel following an extensive investigation that linked him to a hit-and-run accident that occurred in East New York just moments after the shooting. The gun allegedly used in the double homicide was found hidden inside a wall in Morel’s residence.
The motive remains unknown and under investigation; in an interview with the New York Daily News from his jail cell, Morel claimed that he wasn’t the man who pulled the trigger.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Morel faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, Brown stated.