NATIONAL NEWS

Hours before the Albuquerque killings suspect was identified, reporters were inside his home

Aug 10, 2022, 5:39 AM | Updated: 11:53 am
August 9, 2022, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA: JOURNAL.Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina , left...
August 9, 2022, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA: JOURNAL.Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina , left is joined at a press conference by Mayor Tim Keller and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in announcing the arrest of Muhammad Syed , a suspect in the recent murders of Muslim men in Albuquerque.Photographed on Tuesday August 9, 2022.Adolphe Pierre-Louis/JOURNAL (Credit Image: © Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire)
(Credit Image: © Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire)

(CNN) — Authorities said Tuesday they arrested 51-year-old Muhammad Syed as a suspect in the killings of two Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Hours before the announcement, CNN was inside Syed’s home and spoke to his daughter, who offered insight on her father and what happened when they last saw each other, which she said was before his arrest and before authorities executed a search warrant on their family’s home.

The daughter, one of Syed’s six children, spoke to CNN Tuesday morning, while the family was still cleaning up after investigators had pored over the contents of the house the night before. Living room rugs were tossed around, and the contents of drawers had been strewn about. A flag of Afghanistan — from where Syed and his family moved several years ago — still hung prominently in the living room.

CNN has chosen not to name the daughter out of concern for her safety.

She said her father, who works as a truck driver, drives a gray Volkswagen Jetta. Albuquerque police previously released images of a gray Volkswagen sedan, appearing to be a Jetta, which they called a “vehicle of interest” in the killings.

Syed left his home in his vehicle Monday night, telling his family he was going to Texas to find a place for them and adding he was fearful of the recent shootings that had taken place in the Muslim community, his daughter said.

Authorities, acting on a tip from the public, had been preparing to execute a search warrant on Syed’s home Monday night when they saw him get into his car and followed him, deputy commander of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division Kyle Hartsock said in a Tuesday news conference.

Syed was pulled over and detained near Santa Rosa, New Mexico, which is about 120 miles east of Albuquerque, roughly halfway to the Texas border.

Meanwhile, police executed the search warrant in Syed’s home and found multiple firearms, Hartsock said.

Syed’s daughter said he was home during the shootings but could not offer proof.

“My father is not a person who can kill somebody. My father has always talked about peace. That’s why we are here in the United States. We came from Afghanistan, from fighting, from shooting,” she told CNN.

The family has been in the US for roughly six years, the daughter said.

Hartsock confirmed Syed is from Afghanistan, saying that during the last several years he had “a few minor misdemeanor arrests (from the Albuquerque Police Department) from domestic violence” and some other incidents, adding “that’s our only known history with him locally.”

All three previous domestic violence charges Syed faced were dismissed, Hartsock said.

According to the affidavit for his arrest, Syed denied any involvement in the killings during an interview with police on Tuesday.

Four killings of Muslim men took place in Albuquerque between November 2021 and this month, with the latest three occurring within a span of two weeks. All victims were of South Asian descent and an arrest affidavit obtained Tuesday by CNN affiliate KOAT provided more details on two of the killings.

According to police, one of the victims Aftab Hussein was found on July 26 with multiple gunshot wounds, lying next to a car. Detectives learned that the gunman had waited behind a bush near the driveway where the victim usually parked his vehicle and then fired through the bush multiple times when Hussein got out of his vehicle, according to the complaint.

On August 1, police got a call about a drive-by shooting and found Muhammud Afzaal Hussain with multiple gunshot wounds, the complaint states.

In the suspect’s home, authorities found information that showed Syed may have known the victims “to some extent” and that interpersonal conflict may have led to the killings, police said on Tuesday.

Officials said they plan to charge him with two homicides — the killings of Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain — and Hartsock said they are working with the district attorney on potential charges for the August 5 killing of Naeem Hussain and the November 2021 killing of Mohammad Zaher Ahmadi.

There is evidence “strong enough that” authorities are continuing to view Syed as the “most likely person of interest or suspect’ in those killings as well,” Hartsock said.

One of the firearms recovered in his home has been linked to bullet casings found at the scenes of two of the killings, while casings for a handgun found in his car when he was stopped were linked to one of the scenes, according to the arrest affidavit.

The daughter told CNN she married a man in February 2018, and her father was not happy with the marriage at the time but had come to accept it more recently. She said her husband was friends with two victims, Aftab Hussein and Naeem Hussain.

Police said they haven’t yet determined a motive for the killings.

The-CNN-Wire
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Hours before the Albuquerque killings suspect was identified, reporters were inside his home