A 37-year-old Queens man was on Wednesday (6) sentenced to life without parole for killing a Bangladeshi-American Imam and his associate two summers ago.
Oscar Morel of Brooklyn had gunned down Imam Maulana Akonjee and his associate and friend Thara Uddin in August 2016 as they walked home following prayers at a mosque.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Morel did not show “an ounce of sympathy or respect for human life when he gunned down the beloved spiritual leader and his associate moments after the two men left a nearby mosque.”
Morel reportedly approached the men from the rear and pointed a .38 caliber revolver at their heads. He fled the scene as soon as he fired several shots. Both men were rushed to a nearby hospital, but they were pronounced dead.
Video footage from near the scene of the shooting showed Morel getting out of a black SUV and walking towards the two victims. A while later, Morel is seen running back to his vehicle. Another video surveillance showed Morel in Brooklyn hitting a bicyclist with his vehicle and then driving away without stopping. He was nabbed after a local resident who witnessed the incident followed Morel in his vehicle to get the license number for the police.
On searching Morel’s home, police officials found the .38 caliber firearm that was used to shoot at the Imam and his associate.
Brown said the “cowardly actions” of Morel did not just take the life of two respected men, but the “killings ripped at the heart of the Muslim community – our community. It is my hope that today’s conclusion to this case brings some closure and comfort to the many family and friends of the victims.”
The motive behind the murders remain unknown.
“There’s no ostensible, obvious motive here, nor did I prove a motive at the trial,” Peter V. Lomp, the prosecutor who tried the case, was quoted as saying by the New York Times. “I had very strong evidence that he was guilty and I specifically attempted to divert the jury’s attention from the motive issue,” Lomp said. “I told them from the very beginning: ‘If you focus on motive, you probably won’t reach a verdict, because you’re not going to figure out why.’ Nor do I have to prove why.”