By Patrick Donachie
A Queens grand jury indicted a Brooklyn man accused of gunning down the imam of an Ozone Park mosque, along with his friend and associate. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced the indictment Monday.
The charges against Oscar Morel, 35, include one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, the DA said.
Morel is accused of approaching Imam Maulana Akonjee and Thara Uddin after the afternoon prayers Aug. 13 at the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque at 76-18 Glenmore Ave. The shooting occurred blocks away at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and 80th Street. Both men were shot in the head and were pronounced dead after being taken to a nearby hospital.
The shootings struck a chord with many Muslims in the area, who expressed anxiety about their safety in practicing their religion. The motive for the case remains unclear, although Brown earlier said his office was considering the possibility that the shootings were a hate crime.
“The defendant’s alleged actions strike at the very heart of our Muslim community,” Brown said in a statement. “Both victims were gentle men of peace and their deaths are a devastating loss to their families and the communities that they served.”
Morel will be arraigned on the indictment at a later date at the Supreme Court in Kew Gardens. If convicted of the first-degree murder count, Morel will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona