Crime and Courts
Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Gun Found in Home of Man Accused of Killing Imam a Ballistic Match to Shooting Scene: NYPD

What to Know

  • Oscar Morel was held without bail on murder and weapons charges Tuesday afternoon in the shooting deaths of a Queens Imam and his associate
  • Imam Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin were walking home from a mosque when they were shot in the head on Sunday.
  • No motive has been revealed for the shootings, but authorities have said the possibility of hate crime is "certainly on the table."

Ballistics tests performed on a gun found in a wall at the home of the man accused of killing a Queens imam and his associate have revealed a match to the shooting scene, according to the NYPD.

The NYPD said that the tests linked the gun found in Oscar Morel's home and the crime scene near Al-Furquan Jame Masjid mosque on Sunday. It comes a little over a day after Morel, 35, was charged with multiple counts of murder in the shooting deaths of Imam Maulama Akonjee and his associate, Thara Uddin. 

Though the motive remained unclear, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the attack was being viewed as a possible hate crime.

Morel, 35, "is accused of the murder of a highly respected and beloved religious leader and his friend as they walked home from an afternoon prayer service," said Brown, who met with family members of the victims on Tuesday. "Their deaths are a devastating loss to their families and the community that they served as men of peace."

Defense attorney Leonard Ressler said Morel adamantly denied any involvement in the shootings, telling the lawyer, "I didn't do anything."

Morel, who was employed as a porter at a Manhattan college, did not enter a plea at a hearing on Tuesday. He was ordered held without bail.

Akonjee, 55, and Uddin, 64, were walking home from the Al-Furquan Jame Masjid mosque on Sunday afternoon when they were both shot in the head. They were later pronounced dead.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Monday that Morel was seen on surveillance video leaving the area of the shooting in a black GMC Trailblazer. About 10 minutes later, a vehicle matching that description struck a bicyclist in Brooklyn. 

Authorities then began watching Morel's vehicle and cuffed him on Sunday night when he allegedly rammed a NYPD cruiser being used to box his vehicle in. Boyce said that on Monday, officers found a revolver hidden behind drywall and screws in his home and clothes similar to those being worn in the surveillance video that showed the gunman. 

The shooting left many Muslims in Ozone Park in fear, and chants of "Justice!" were heard as thousands paid respects at a funeral for Akonjee on Monday. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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