Family and friends of the three Muslim students shot to death late Tuesday near the University of North Carolina remembered them as humanitarians who used their education to give back to refugees in the Middle East.
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
Family representatives set up a Facebook page on Wednesday called Our Three Winners to celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones.
Deah, a doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Dentistry, and Yusor, a North Carolina State University graduate, were married in December. Yusor had also been recently admitted to UNC’s dental school.
She posted a photo of herself dancing with her father at the wedding to Facebook just one day before the shooting:
Razan, Yusor’s younger sister, was a sophomore at NC State who studied design and was recognized for her academic accomplishments on the Dean’s list, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
Both Yusor and Deah had used their dental education to do humanitarian work.
Yusor posted photos of a July 2014 trip to Turkey to her Facebook page and shared anecdotes from her time volunteering at a dental clinic there:
She described treating one skittish young patient near the Syrian border who had lost her parents and home to aerial bombings.
“As I approached her, she gripped my arm so tightly I could feel my own pulse,” Yusor wrote. “I assured her she was in good hands, and reached for a goody bag filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and stickers that came all the way from ‘Amreeka!’ She relaxed, placed the sticker on her shirt, and lay back with her mouth open.”
Deah was also planning a humanitarian mission to Turkey. The dean of the UNC School of Dentistry issued a statement Wednesday praising his accomplishments, including his work spearheading the planned trip to provide dental relief for Syrian refugees.
“Deah was known for his kindness, service-driven heart, love of basketball and his sincerity,” the school’s dean, Jane Weintraub, said in the statement, adding “he was well loved and respected within these walls, and we will feel his loss deeply.”
He had planned to travel to Turkey this summer with 10 other local dentists and school faculty. Deah’s mission, which he called “Project: Refugee Smiles,” was to pass out dental supplies and provide urgent dental care to refugees. The project had raised $90,000 online as of Wednesday afternoon, well beyond its original fundraising goal of $20,000.
A promotional video Deah made for the fundraising effort was published by the News & Observer:
Officials plan to investigate whether the shooting was motivated by religious hate.