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Cyclist Struck by Accused Imam Killer Says Crash Was 'Destiny'

By  Katie Honan and Murray Weiss | August 16, 2016 6:12pm 

 David Hunter was struck by Oscar Morel moments after he allegedly shot and killed an imam and his friend near their Ozone Park mosque. He stands outside his home, leaning on a cane.
David Hunter was struck by Oscar Morel moments after he allegedly shot and killed an imam and his friend near their Ozone Park mosque. He stands outside his home, leaning on a cane.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

CYPRESS HILLS — A Brooklyn fashion designer out for a bike ride Saturday afternoon came face to face with the man accused of assassinating an Ozone Park imam and his assistant and walked away — barely.

"Maybe I'm lucky I'm still alive," said David Hunter, who marveled Tuesday afternoon in his Cypress Hills home that he wasn't a third fatality that day.

Authorities said that Hunter was deliberately struck by Oscar Morel, a New School porter charged in the death of the two men. Police and prosecutors still have not hinted at motive in either attack. Morel has not been charged in the hit-and-run.

That afternoon Hunter went out on his bike to pick up items for an upcoming show for New York Fashion Week, he said.

An avid cyclist, he said always dresses in bright colors and waits a few extra seconds at lights and stop signs, with an eye towards safety. 

While waiting at a light on Pitkin Avenue, a few blocks from his home, he looked over at Morel, who according to prosecutors had shot the two Muslim men less than 20 minutes earlier.

"I look at him a couple of seconds, but say nothing," Hunter, leaning on a cane inside his apartment kitchen, recalled. 

As he crossed Pitkin Avenue, Morel whipped his car around to follow him, he said. 

"He just turned, and he follow me," he said. "He was angry, he keep saying something, 'f---er, f---er, motherf---er."

Hunter tried to bike away but couldn't pedal fast enough to beat Morel, and he was struck from behind in the large car Morel was driving, he said. 

"He came toward me, like whoosh, with high velocity, fast fast, and he hit me," he said. 

"The strong crash throw me on a parked car, but thanks God, I wore the helmet."

His head slammed into the bumper of a car at a 90-degree angle, and his shoulder and left side hit the car, he said. 

He lost consciousness, but remembers hearing voices — including a screaming Morel, who only stuck his head out of his car window to continue yelling and cursing, Hunter said.

"He looked like somebody abnormal, at that minute, he is out of control," he said.

"I feel scared, I thought I died." 

David Hunter said God, and his custom-made plaid helmet, saved him after he was struck from behind by Oscar Morel's large SUV on Aug. 13, 2016. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)

Witnesses to the crash took down Morel's license plate number, which eventually helped detectives track him down for the murder earlier in the day. 

Investigators tracked his SUV to his home in East New York and waited for him to leave a day later, officials said. When police officers first approached him, he again used his car as a weapon, ramming it into an unmarked NYPD car, police said.

After his blue bicycle was hit by the SUV, Hunter was laid out on the asphalt in the near 100-degree weather, in excruciating pain. 

"I used to walk like a choreographer, but now I walk like a Muppet," he joked. He was released Sunday from Brookdale Hospital without any broken bones, but he has to walk with a cane for a bit.

Hunter was riding this bike when Oscar Morel drove into him on Pitkin Avenue, moments after he allegedly shot and killed an imam and his assistant nearby in Ozone Park. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)

Despite his experience, he said his crash was meant to be.

"What happened is destiny, that something happen, must happen," he said. Reporting the accident led to police tracking down Morel, who was arraigned Tuesday in Queens Criminal Court, where he was called a "cold-blooded" assassin by prosecutors.

Hunter — whose fashion designer name is Salem David al Shimiri — is worried about his fashion show on Sept. 10 at the rooftop of the Hotel Pennsylvania.

"I pray to God I can finish it," he said. The crash has left him afraid to get back on his bike or go out in public, he said.

And he's saddened by the deaths of Imam Maulana Alauddin Akonjee, 55, and his assistant Thara Uddin, 64, who were shot Saturday about 1:50 p.m. as they left Ozone Park's Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque at 76-20 Glenmore Ave.

"I feel more sorry, I feel more sad, because some people died," he said.

"Those people, they have family, they have kids. How can somebody become an orphan for no reason?"