Fresno shooting rampage: Suspected gunman wanted to kill as many white people as possible, cops say

Police said the man who killed three people on a shooting spree in downtown Fresno, Calif., on Tuesday while shouting "Allahu Akbar" wanted to kill as many white people as possible.

Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, knew he was being searched for and he "decided he was going to kill more people," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

During his arrest, Muhammad shouted "Allahu Akbar," but Dyer said the shootings had "nothing to do with terrorism in spite of the statement he made."

"This is solely based on race," Dyer told reporters.

FBI officials told Fox News the agency is not treating the shooting as an incident of terror, but is sending agents to the scene at request of local police.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said it was "a sad day for us all" in a statement to FOX 26.

Muhammad first walked up to a utility truck and shot a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. employee sitting in the passenger seat. The driver of the truck, who is Latino, sped off to the police department for help, but the worker, a 34-year-old white man, died.

Muhammad then shot at another person and missed, police said. He aimed at a third, killing the 37-year-old on the sidewalk as he walked with a bag of groceries. The final victim, 58, was gunned down in the parking lot of a charity building, authorities said.

Dyer said Muhammad approached a vehicle in between shootings, but he spared the lives of two Latina women who were in the car with a child.

“These were unprovoked attacks by an individual that was intent on carrying out homicides today. He did that," Dyer said.

Police had put out a news release hours before the shootings Tuesday, saying that Muhammad was armed and dangerous and wanted in the shooting death of a security guard at a Motel 6 last week. The guard, 25-year-old Carl Williams, was white.

Muhammad told officers at his arrest that he was the guy they were looking for, Dyer said.

"I did it. I shot them," Dyer said Muhammad told officers.

Police are searching for the revolver Muhammad said he tossed into a pile of clothing. The gun may have been picked up by someone else, Dyer said.

Muhammad faces four counts of murder and at least two additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

Stephen Hughes, 66, said he and his wife rushed home Tuesday after receiving a frantic call from a neighbor. Hughes came home to see a body draped in a blanket on the sidewalk leading to his front door.

He first thought the shooting was gang-related, but then he noticed the bag of groceries near the body. "It looks like a guy carrying his groceries home from the store," Hughes said.

On what appeared to be Muhammad's Facebook page, he repeatedly posted "#LetBlackPeopleGo" and encouraged "black warriors" to "mount up." A flurry of posts emerged in the past day.

He wrote that his "kill rate increases tremendously on the other side" and also posted about "white devils." On several occasions, he wrote updates that included the phrase "Allahu Akbar," meaning "God is great" in Arabic.

Muhammad has a criminal history that includes arrests on weapons, drugs and false imprisonment charges and making terrorist threats. He had been associated with gangs but he was not a confirmed member, police say.

Muhammad was charged in 2005 with possessing cocaine with intent to distribute, court records show. Federal prosecutors said at the time that he was also in possession of a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and two rifles after being convicted of a felony.

He claimed insanity, and his attorney requested a psychiatric examination for his client, saying Muhammad "appeared eccentric with some bizarre beliefs." A psychiatrist who examined Muhammad believed he had psychosis, Muhammad's attorney said in the court filing.

He also "suffered auditory hallucinations and had at least two prior mental health hospitalizations," according to court documents. His attorney said that Muhammad had "paranoia" and thought the justice system and his defense attorney were conspiring against him, court papers said.

The attorney who represented Muhammad in that case did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

Public records list Muhammad as Cory Taylor and other aliases with addresses in Fresno and Sacramento. Fresno's police chief said his former name was Cory McDonald. A woman who identified herself as Taylor's grandmother said Tuesday that the family last saw him on Easter Sunday. She hung up the phone before giving her name.

"I never would have thought he would do anything like this," sad Muhammad's brother, who asked not to be identified by name. "I'm just kind of shocked."

He described his brother as a funny and intelligent man.

Police say two of the victims may have been clients of Catholic Charities, which provides a variety of services for refugees, the homeless and those with disabilities.

Getty Images
The suspect was identified as Kori Ali Muhammad, a 39-year-old man who was wanted in connection with the shooting death of a security guard outside a motel Thursday, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.



Three dead in Fresno shooting rampage; suspect caught, linked to Motel 6 slaying

Three men were killed Tuesday morning in a Fresno shooting rampage that police say was carried out by a man they had identified only hours earlier as the suspect in the fatal shooting of an unarmed motel security guard last week.

The 39-year-old suspect, identified as Kori Ali Muhammad, opened fire on four men, hitting three and missing the fourth, before he was taken into custody, police Chief Jerry Dyer said. Muhammad, who is facing four counts of murder for Tuesday’s shootings and the shooting last Thursday at Motel 6 and also two counts of attempted murder, shouted “Ali Akbar” after he spotted approaching officers and dove to the ground on Fulton Street, Dyer said.

Dyer said that it’s too soon to determine if the shooting rampage was terrorism-related. However, a review of Muhammad’s social media shows he quoted the phrase “Allahu Akbar” in a tweet. The Arabic phrase translates to “God is the greatest.”

In addition, Muhammad’s Facebook posts indicated that “he does not like white people, and he has anti-government sentiments,” the chief said. The four men who were targeted Tuesday were white, Dyer said.

Dyer noted that in Thursday’s shooting at Motel 6, which was caught on surveillance video, Muhammad did not make similar statements. “What we know is that this was a random act of violence,” Dyer said. “There is every reason to believe he acted alone.”

Survivors and witnesses said they were overcome with panic and fear during and after the shootings. Witnesses reported the gunman sprayed rounds while reloading and cursing.

At Catholic Charities just north of downtown, about a dozen distraught people cried, moaned and hugged one another as several undercover police officers worked furiously to keep the shooting victim alive by pumping on his chest. Blood from the gunshot wounds flooded the ground nearby.

“It could have been me,” moaned one man. “I ran. He couldn’t get away,” he added, pointing to the victim as an ambulance sped toward the shooting, driving the wrong way up Fulton with siren blaring.

“Give us some room! Move back,” shouted a woman, apparently a worker at the charity, where people line up daily to seek food and necessities. It’s an area where misery and petty crime happen every day, but nothing like this.

A witness who lives close to Catholic Charities and who did not want to be identified said he watched the chaos unfold from his front yard as the suspect, carrying a large-caliber revolver, shot a man repeatedly in a front yard on the west side of Fulton Street north of Nevada Avenue. Then he stopped and calmly ejected spent shell casings from the weapon and reloaded near a bus stop south of Nevada.

“The shells are still there,” the witness said, pointing them out.

The suspect then walked south on Fulton, where he opened fire on a man in the Catholic Charities parking lot, the witness said.

“He didn’t look like a gangbanger or anything,” the witness said.

Fresno police first learned of the shooting rampage through the department’s ShotSpotter gunfire detection system, Dyer said. The first report was logged about 10:45 a.m. in the 300 block of North Van Ness Avenue when the gunman walked up to a Pacific Gas & Electric pickup and opened fire on the passenger, shooting him repeatedly and mortally wounding him. Within seconds, Dyer said, the gunman had moved west on Mildreda Street, firing at but missing a resident, and then to Fulton Street, where he fired several rounds at another man, striking and killing him. The gunman reloaded at a bus stop and then killed a man in the parking lot of Catholic Charities in the 100 block of North Fulton, he said.

Officers responding to the ShotSpotter report saw Muhammad running south on Fulton and took him into custody, Dyer said. Although police found rounds of .357 caliber bullets and speed loaders for a revolver when Muhammad was taken into custody, no weapon was found, he said.

sno County government offices went on lockdown and employees were urged to shelter in place. At least one agent from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was at the Fulton Street shooting scene, and agents from Homeland Security were outside Fresno police headquarters. Dyer said the FBI also was notified about the shootings.

The man shot in the PG&E truck was identified as a company employee. In a statement Tuesday afternoon, PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles said: “Our hearts are very heavy today, as we have lost a member of our PG&E family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of our employee, and all those impacted by this tragic event.”

After the PG&E worker was shot, his coworker drove the pickup to police headquarters on M Street in downtown Fresno, and from there he was taken to Community Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, Dyer

The other shooting victims may have been clients of the social service agency, not employees, Dyer said.

The shootings broke out about two hours after police had named Muhammad as the suspect in the slaying of security guard Carl Williams last Thursday at the Motel 6 on Blackstone Avenue near Ashlan Avenue. Williams, 25, was shot multiple times. The police bulletin said Muhammad should be considered armed and dangerous.

Dyer was asked at a news conference why police waited until Tuesday to name Muhammad as the Motel 6 shooting suspect, even though police were able to identify him quickly from surveillance video at the motel.

“We were exhausting some follow-up leads, some sightings, including one in Madera, and we also put out alerts to all officers and law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for him,” Dyer said. “At one point he posted on Facebook he was in Atlanta, which was not true.”

Imam Seyed Ali Ghazvini of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno said the attack is against the Muslim faith.

“We denounce and reject in the strongest words possible this kind of violence and attack,” Ghazvini said, “and we request law enforcement agencies investigate the reasons and motivations about the person himself. He’s not known in our community, and we are in touch with other communities to see if he was a member or not. At this time, we are collecting information to see who is this person. … We have a very active relationship with all branches of state and federal law enforcement agencies in the Valley to make them aware of possible extremism within our area.”

Ghazvini said the literal translation of “Allahu Akbar” means “God is the greatest.” It is used during prayers and “unfortunately the same term is being used in an evil manner by extremists and terrorists trying to give some kind of religious legitimacy to their acts – we strongly denounce this.

“We do use this term during our prayer and calls for prayer, and we use it to pray to God and ask for healing people and bringing peace … the way it is being used by extremist and violent people is actually against our faith and is a misrepresentation of the word.”


Hate crime is suspected after a gunman kills 3 white men in downtown Fresno

Kori Ali Muhammad told his family there was a war going on between blacks and whites in America.

On social media, he referred to white people as “devils.” Earlier in the year, he released a rap album replete with violent, explicit, racially-charged lyrics, including referring to himself in one song as a “black soldier.”

On Tuesday morning, police say Muhammad stalked the streets of downtown Fresno, fatally shooting three white men with a .357 revolver. Before surrendering to police, he allegedly shouted “Allahu akbar” and expressed hatred toward white people and the government, according to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Local authorities said they don’t believe the attack was an act of terrorism but are investigating it as a hate crime.

“If in fact he’s lashing out at white people — white males in this case — that would constitute a hate crime,” Dyer said. “We believe it is a hate crime, definitely a hate crime.”

The chief said investigators don’t believe Muhammad worked with anyone else in the attack, calling him “an individual that is filled with hate, filled with anger.”

The attack occurred over less than two minutes with Muhammad firing a total of 16 shots. Dyer said he surrendered to a responding officer without incident and later apologized to the chief.

In addition to Tuesday’s killings, police said Muhammad was suspected in the fatal shooting of a security guard, also a white man, last week.

Muhammad’s father, Vincent Taylor, told The Times on Tuesday that his son believed that he was part of an ongoing war between whites and blacks, and that “a battle was about to take place.”

The attack began at around 10:45 a.m. in the 300 block of North Van Ness Avenue. Within a few seconds, a second burst of gunfire was heard, then a third and a fourth. Sixteen rounds were fired in four locations, Dyer said.

After the shots were heard, Dyer said the driver of a PG&E truck arrived at the city’s police headquarters to report that a passenger had been shot by a gunman who had approached them on foot.

After mortally wounding the truck passenger, Muhammad walked west on East Mildreda Avenue, where he came across a resident and opened fire but missed his target, Dyer said.

Muhammad continued walking on Mildreda and approached Fulton Street, where he fatally shot a second man before reloading his weapon, Dyer said.

He then headed toward Catholic Charities in the 100 block of North Fulton Street and fired another fatal volley of gunfire, killing a man in the parking lot.

An officer in the area spotted the gunman running south on Fulton. He then “dove onto the ground” and was taken into custody, the chief said.

“As he was taken into custody, he yelled out, ‘Allahu akbar,’ ” Dyer said.

“Allahu akbar” roughly translates to “God is great” in Arabic and is a common positive refrain uttered by Muslims in prayer or in celebration. But the phrase has also been linked to terrorist attacks. The gunman who killed 13 people in a terror attack at Fort Hood, Texas, screamed “Allahu akbar” as he opened fire in 2009, and the phrase is often tweeted by social media accounts sympathetic to Islamic State and other terror groups.

The victims in Tuesday’s attack were not immediately identified. In a statement released last week, Fresno police identified the security guard slain Thursday as Carl Williams. The unarmed 25-year-old was shot outside a Motel 6 on North Blackstone Avenue.

The gunman did not make any references to race during last week’s attack, according to Dyer, who said investigators will need time to determine the exact motive in the shootings.

“There was no statement made on Thursday night when he shot the security guard and killed him,” Dyer said. “There was no comments or no statements made at that time, so I am not certain why he said what he said today.”

Muhammad legally changed his name from Kori Taylor when he was a teenager, according to his grandmother, Glenestene Taylor, who said Muhammad was acting strangely when he visited her Sunday. He was crying, but she believed he was simply going out of town.

“I thought that’s why he’s upset, because he thinks of me as a mother,” said Taylor, 81. “He’s always telling me, ‘I’ll take care of it. I’ll protect you. Don’t you worry about it.’ He really didn’t want to go but he was going.”

A Facebook profile page for a Kori Ali Muhammad from Fresno paid homage to black pride and black nationalism, with images of the red, green and black Pan-African flag and a raised fist.

The rambling profile includes militant and apocalyptic language and repeated demands to “let black people go.” He referenced “white devils” and praised melanoma skin cancer.

On Saturday afternoon, Muhammad posted a photo of himself in a colorful garment, with his head covered, and the words: “LET BLACK PEOPLE GO OR THE DOOM INCREASES REPARATIONS & SEPARATION NOW.”

On Monday he wrote: “MY KILL RATE INCRESASES TREMENDOUSLY ON THE OTHER SIDE ASÈ ALLAH U AKBAR.”

Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said many of Muhammad’s social media postings make reference to terms used by the Nation of Islam, which has been labeled a racist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Pointing to Muhammad’s repeated references to “white devils” and “Yakub” — the villainous figure responsible for creating white people, according to Nation of Islam lore — Levin said it is likely Muhammad thought he was taking part in a race war against whites.

“We’re living in an era of violent reciprocal prejudice, and there are references on his website to Fard Muhammad, the founder of Nation of Islam, and Nation of Islam uses the term white devils quite prolifically, as did this shooter,” Levin said.

Muhammad also repeatedly used the phrase “Black Dragon Lion Hawk” in his Facebook posts, and Levin said such nods to warrior culture are also common in black separatist circles.

But Glenestene Taylor said she didn’t remember her grandson showing a racial bias, toward whites or anyone else, in all his years staying with her or during countless visits to her predominately white Fresno neighborhood.

“He would say something derogatory about anybody, didn’t matter about the color,” she said. “If he didn’t like what they did, he didn’t like what they did no matter the color.”

Muhammad had run afoul of Fresno police before. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2005 for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm for drug trafficking and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, after a Fresno police officer searched his car and found two large bags of cocaine, a loaded handgun and two rifles, court records show. A federal judge later declared Muhammad mentally incompetent to stand trial.

He was deemed competent in August 2006 and pleaded guilty to the charges of cocaine possession with intent to distribute and a weapons charge. He ultimately served 92 months in federal prison, records show.

Hours after the shootings Tuesday, two shaken workers at the Catholic charity said they had ducked under yellow police tape to get out.

They said they were told not to talk to the news media. But one, a Vietnam veteran, said a person never forgets the sound of guns. He said that the charity gives away food every day and that families are allowed to come only once a week.

“We feed a lot of children, so we have to make sure that the food gets spread around,” he said.

“This is a sad day for us all. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims,” Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said in a statement. “None of us can imagine what they must be going through.”

Vincent Taylor said he hopes his son’s capture headed off any future bloodshed.

“I’m happy he was arrested,” he said. “I would hope that whatever Kori tells [police,] they take him seriously and they start following up.”

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