NEW YORK CITY — Police have charged a Brooklyn man with murdering a Queens imam and his assistant at point-blank range as they left their mosque, officials said Monday night.
Oscar Morel, 35, a porter at The New School, was charged with walking up behind Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and his assistant Thara Uddin, 64, on Saturday as they left Ozone Park's Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque at 76-20 Glenmore Ave. and shooting them in the head, police said.
The charges come after police found a revolver they believe to be the murder weapon in Morel's East New York home, sources said earlier Monday. Officers also recovered clothes that matched those worn by the shooter in a video of the incident, sources said.
"Two people who helped make their neighborhood a better place were killed in cold blood," Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Monday evening press conference at police headquarters.
After shooting the two men near Liberty Avenue and 79th Street Saturday about 1:50 p.m., Morel got into a road-rage feud with a cyclist, police officials said. Morel is believed to have clipped the cyclist with his SUV and threatened him with his gun before driving away, officials said.
Investigators tracked Morel's SUV to his home where they staked him out for more than a day until he left the house and got into his vehicle, police said.
When officers approached, Morel rammed an NYPD vehicle several times in an attempt to escape, but was arrested at the scene, officials said.
Sources said a motive for the homicides, which were being investigated as a possible hate crime, was still unclear.
Morel has been employed by The New School since 2013, a university spokeswoman said.
"While we are unable to comment on his arrest, we are cooperating fully with the authorities on this matter," said university spokeswoman Josephine Parr.
Alvin Morel, who told the Daily News and the New York Post that he is the suspect's brother, posted a note on Facebook expressing shock about his brother's alleged actions.
He added that his brother — who he said was raised Catholic — had no problems with Muslims, despite rumors that an animosity of Muslims sparked the shooting, according to reports.
"The only time we felt, everybody in New York felt, a hatred, was during 9/11. Other than that, we never felt a hatred with nobody,” Alvin Morel told the News and the Post.