Imam killed in shooting outside mosque in Newark previously attacked

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, January 5, 2024
Community members remember imam shot outside NJ mosque; police continue search for suspect
Anthony Johnson is live in Newark with the latest details.

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A community is confused and in mourning after the Imam of a mosque in Newark was shot and killed and it wasn't the first time the imam was the victim of a violent incident.

The investigation into the motive for the killing and the suspect continued overnight and into Thursday morning.

Masjid Muhammad shared a video of Imam Hassan Sharif. He was found by police Wednesday morning lying in the parking lot, just 10 feet from the entrance to the mosque.

John Del Giorno has the latest details on the shooting in Newark from NewsCopter 7.

It happened at 6:15 a.m. outside the mosque on South Orange Avenue and Camden Street.

Officials say he had multiple gunshot wounds and was brought to the hospital, where he eventually was pronounced dead.

Back in August, Sharif posted on Facebook that he was attacked on his way to morning prayers, but that time was able to get away.

Authorities say this shooting does not appear to be racially motivated, but community members are still fearful and the murder has touched off concerns across the state for religious leaders.

State leaders are trying to assure Muslim leaders and others that they will be safe.

"While there's no evidence this is a hate crime, whether it is or it isn't, it's an opportunity for us to condemn hate crimes of any kind, whether its islamophobia, antisemitism or any other hate crimes that have exploded of late, we condemn them in any and all forms, it is not who we are as a state," said Gov. Phil Murphy.

Those who knew Sharif, who also was a transportation safety officer at Newark Airport since 2006, say he believed in helping people, and that this mosque was even used as a "safe surrender" location giving fugitives a place to safely turn themselves in.

As for the investigation, police are looking into surveillance video from the area and are offering a $25,000 reward to anyone with information.

Officials say the motive also does not appear to be domestic terrorism.

"The impact on the community of this sort of particularly dastardly crime cannot be understated," said Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens.

Officials say an imam shot outside his mosque in Newark on Wednesday morning has died from his injuries.

People in the area blame this crime on the ongoing crisis of violence in the neighborhood.

"The crime in this area just has to stop," said Newark resident Paulette Williams. "It's ridiculous. I'm out of here. I'm moving to another state. I can't take anymore."

Daud Haqq, the president of the Tri-State Imams Council, is especially shaken by his friend's death.

"My heart is really hurting over him," said Haqq, before questioning the motive, "You're not afraid to attack an imam, how about the average Muslim?"

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens vowed to get some answers for the reeling community.

"It's not lost on us the particular impact on the Islamic community, we share your pain," said Stephens. "And we promise to utilize the full resources of those here, and those who are continuing to partner with us to we make sure that this heinous crime is solved."

Anyone with information is asked to call the Newark Police Department through their 24-hour tip hot line at 1-877-NWK TIPS (1-877-695-8477).

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