Suspect arrested in murder of Queens imam; gun recovered

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Jim Dolan has the story.

Police arrested Oscar Morel of East New York in the execution-style murders of a Queens imam and his associate over the weekend.

He's facing charges of second degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon, two counts each.

Police say the 35-year-old man was taken into custody late Sunday after an apparent hit and run in Brooklyn and is being held at the 107th Precinct. Authorities had previously released a sketch of the suspect they were looking for, seen leaving the scene of the double murder in Ozone Park in a Chevy Trailblazer. He allegedly struck a bicyclist with that same vehicle sometime over the weekend and then fled the scene.

The bicyclist managed to get his license plate number, which helped police track him down shortly before midnight. And that's when authorities say he rammed a police vehicle before being apprehended.

During a search of Morel's East new York home, police recovered a revolver.

Surveillance video shows the gunman running up behind 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and 64-year-old Thara Uddin, who were leaving a mosque around 2 p.m. Saturday. The men were both shot in the back of the head as they walked near the corner of Liberty Avenue and 79th Street in Ozone Park.

Police have not called the murders a hate crime as they continue to investigate the suspect's motive. Both men were wearing traditional religious attire, and Akonjee was carrying about $1,000 in cash that was not taken.

"He always wants peace," Akonjee's son, Naim Akonjee, 21, said of his father through tears. "Why did they kill my father?"

Meanwhile, hundreds of family, friends and community members gathered Monday for the funerals. Mayor Bill de Blasio was among those who attended, saying that the person who committed this crime will be brought to justice.
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