Authorities are trying to determine whether the slayings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, including one overnight, are connected.
Three of the killings have happened in the last two weeks, and one occurred in early November, Albuquerque police said. All four victims are Muslim men from South Asia.
Friday’s shooting was reported just before midnight on the edge of a community known as the International District, southeast of downtown, Albuquerque police spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said at a Saturday news conference.
The victim is a man in his mid-20s whose identity has not been confirmed, police said.
“With previous three murders we mentioned on Thursday, there is reason to believe this death is related to those shootings,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said.
Police have refrained from saying the killings were motivated by hate. “We don’t know that at this point,” Gallegos said.
Local, county and federal officials have joined the investigation, and patrols in key areas of the city were being beefed up.
On Saturday evening, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said she was sending additional state police to the city to help bring the person or people responsible to justice.
“The targeted killings of Muslim residents of Albuquerque is deeply angering and wholly intolerable,” she said in a tweet.
The two other recent attacks have included the July 26 killing of Pakistani immigrant Aftab Hussein, 41; and the Monday slaying of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, near the University of New Mexico.
Mayor John Ramon Vigil of nearby Española said Hussain, a Pakistani immigrant who had received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university, was the city’s planning and land use director.
“Tuesday would have marked his first-year anniversary leading the city’s planning team,” Vigil said in a statement this week. “Our city staff has lost a member of our family, and we all have lost a brilliant public servant who wanted to serve and improve his community.”
In its statement Saturday, the Albuquerque Police Department clarified that it’s trying to determine if the Nov. 7 attack of a Muslim man from Afghanistan is related to the others.
In that attack, police said the body of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, was found in a parking lot behind the halal meat market he owned with his brother.
At a news conference Thursday, police alerted the Muslim community about the slayings to-date and to ask the public for assistance tracking down the killer or killers.
“We want the public’s help in identifying this cowardly individual who in all three cases ambushed their victims with no warning, fired shots, and killed them,” Albuquerque Police Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock said Thursday.
On Saturday police noted that the latest attack thought to be connected to the spree happened after that widely covered news conference.
“Right now this is an alarming death that connects to the others as far as we can tell,” Gallegos said Saturday. “It’s surprising this happened so soon after we spoke on Thursday.”
Albuquerque Crime Stoppers offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible.
The national Council on American-Islamic Relations has offered an additional $10,000. The organization called on President Joe Biden’s administration to take a “direct role” in the investigation.
“The lives of Albuquerque Muslims are in danger,” CAIR national deputy director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a statement Saturday. “Whoever is responsible for this horrific, hateful shooting spree must be identified and stopped — now.”
Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, said at the news conference Saturday, “This is not the New Mexico I grew up in, love, and cherish.”
He thanked law enforcement for its response and said, “We will defeat evil and hate together.”
While authorities stopped short of saying victims were targeted for their religion or ethnic backgrounds, Michelle Melendez, the city’s equity and inclusion director, raised the possibility at Saturday’s news conference.
“We cannot denounce strongly enough what appears to be the targeting of people because of their race and religion,” she said.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also involved in investigation.