Update, 5:30 p.m., Thursday:

The man accused of a racially motivated shooting rampage in Fresno has been charged with one count of first-degree murder in the killing of a motel security guard days earlier.

The Fresno County district attorney’s office announced the charge Thursday against Kori Ali Muhammad.

Prosecutors say they’re holding off on three additional counts in the deaths of three white men Tuesday while investigators piece together their case.

Authorities say Muhammad, who is black, told police he wanted to kill as many white people as possible after he learned he was wanted in the shooting death of unarmed security guard Carl Williams. Williams was also white.

Muhammad is due in court Friday.

Original Post:
Five days before a shooting rampage that left three white men dead in downtown Fresno on Tuesday, Kori Ali Muhammad shot an unarmed motel security guard, an act that would set off a chain of events leading to Tuesday’s mass shooting.

Police say Muhammad, 39, gave rare and unusual details about his movements and the killings over several hours of questioning following his arrest, even returning with officers to the crime scenes and demonstrating his actions.

Muhammad told police he watched them investigate the security guard’s killing from a nearby rooftop, and practiced voodoo rituals while in hiding.

At a memorial set up outside the Catholic Charities building, one of the sites of Tuesday’s shootings, Regina Collins paid her respects and also shared fears, noting that her mother was a block away when the shooting happened.

“It could have been her,” Collins said. “I have four little ones. I mean, we even come here and pick up food sometimes when we’re in need.  … It could have been us.”

At a briefing, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer shared more details on the suspect. For example, while Muhammad claimed to police that he is Muslim, he also said he prays to seven different gods.

Two photographs of Kori Ali Muhammad released by the Fresno Police Department.
Two photographs of Kori Ali Muhammad released by the Fresno Police Department. (FRESNO POLICE/AFP/Getty Images)

Dyer also shared a timeline of events that began last Thursday night, when Muhammad allegedly shot 25-year-old Carl Williams, a security guard at a Motel 6. Muhammad said he felt Williams had insulted him when he visited a woman at the motel.

It wasn’t until Tuesday, when Muhammad saw on the local news that he was a suspect in the murder of the guard, that Muhammad decided to kill more.

According to Dyer, “Once [Muhammad] saw he was wanted for murder, he was not going to go down for shooting a security guard for disrespecting him, but that he was going to kill as many white males as possible.”

Carl Williams was shot and killed while working as a security guard at a Fresno motel last week. Kori Ali Muhammad is the suspect.
Carl Williams was shot and killed while working as a security guard at a Fresno motel last week. Kori Ali Muhammad is the suspect. (Courtesy Fresno Police Department)

After that moment, Dyer said Muhammad approached two men in a PG&E truck.

When he noticed the driver was Latino, he intentionally targeted the white man in the passenger seat, 34-year-old Zackary Randalls, killing him and sparing the driver. Randalls had a wife and two young children, according to police.

Zackaray Randalls was shot while doing a ridealong in a PG&E truck.
Zackary Randalls was shot while doing a ride-along in a PG&E truck. (Courtesy Fresno Police Department)

Next, Dyer said Muhammad shot at another white man walking out of a house, but did not hit him, and then shot at a car, but stopped shooting when he saw two Latina women inside.

Then, after shooting another white man on the sidewalk, Muhammad stood over him and shot him two more times as he laid on the ground. That man was 37-year-old Mark Gassett, a father of two.

One of Gassett’s former neighbors, Andrea Hernandez remembered him as kind and funny.

“At first I thought, ‘OK, it’s a real bad dream’,” she said. “After that, reality hit.”

Muhammad allegedly shot Mark Gassett three times.
Muhammad allegedly shot Mark Gassett three times. (Courtesy Fresno Police Department)

Finally, police detailed how Muhammad shot at three white men at a bus stop. Muhammad chased 58-year-old David Martin Jackson and shot him twice, killing him.

When he ran out of bullets, Dyer said, Muhammad wrapped the gun in clothes and put it down. Another man picked the weapon up after speaking briefly with Muhammad. Police said they’re searching for that man.

“I want to make a desperate plea to that individual to turn himself in,” Dyer said.

37-year-old David Jackson
David Jackson (Courtesy Fresno Police Department)

Dyer said Muhammad had been unusually cooperative in walking police through what happened, and described him as coherent, but detached.

“Kori Muhammad is a very calloused individual. As he spoke about the shooting and shooting individuals he did so in a very calloused manner and in fact many times laughed,” said Dyer.

A local news reporter in front of the memorial near where the shootings took place.
A local news reporter in front of the memorial near where the shootings took place. (Vanessa Rancano/KQED news )

Dyer said Muhammad — born Kori McDonald — also spoke with his mother while in custody and “he told her not to cry, that he’s still alive and that his magic is powerful.”

Muhammad told police he did not like white people because they are responsible for oppressing Black people, and that African-Americans and Latinos needed to have their own land with their own laws.

Dyer said Muhammad appeared to be proud of what he’d done.

“He’s not a terrorist,” Dyer said. “But he is a racist.”

Muhammad is expected to be charged with murder on Thursday. He could face the death penalty.

This post includes reporting from The Associated Press

As Fresno Mourns, New Details Emerge in ‘Hate Crime’ Shooting 20 April,2017Vanessa Rancano
  • Carla

    All is not well with regard to race relations in California. In Arcata, a young black man was stabbed to death at a party this week. This is believed to have been racially motivated.

    We have a lot of work to do if we are to counter the emotions being stirred up by our current President/administration!

    • Curious

      Barry was the biggest race baiter ever and the most divisive president in history.

  • Curious

    Why is hate crime in quotation marks?

Author

Vanessa Rancano

Vanessa Rancano is the Central Valley reporter for The California Report. Before joining KQED she was an NPR Kroc Fellow and a California Endowment Fellow with Latino USA. She's a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor