A Fresno man known for advocating black separatism and making militant comments on social media shot and killed three people in downtown Fresno on Tuesday before surrendering to authorities and uttering the phrase, “Allahu akbar,” according to the Fresno Police Department.
The suspect was identified as Kori Ali Muhammad, a 39-year-old man who was wanted in connection with the shooting death of a security guard outside a motel Thursday, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said. The FBI has been notified of the shooting deaths.
Dyer said all of the victims were white men, and two of the men were clients of a local Catholic charity where Tuesday’s attack took place. Muhammad is black.
“Too early to say whether or not this involves terrorism,” Dyer said. “Certainly by the statement that was made, it could give that indication. However, there was no statement made on Thursday night when he shot the security guard and killed him. There was no comments or no statements made at that time, so I am not certain why he said what he said today.”
But Muhammad’s father, Vincent Taylor, told The Times on Monday that his son believed that he was part of an ongoing war between whites and blacks, and that “a battle was about to take place.”
“I’m happy he was arrested,” Vincent Taylor said. “I would hope that whatever Kori tells [police,] they take him seriously and they start following up.”
The gunfire erupted at 10:45 a.m. in the 300 block of North Van Ness Avenue. Within a few seconds, a second burst of gunfire was spotted, then a third and a fourth.
Dyer said a total of 16 rounds were fired in four locations.
Moments later, the driver of a PG&E truck arrived at police headquarters at Fresno and M streets to report that a passenger had been shot by a gunman who had approached them, the chief said. Dyer said the attack was unprovoked.
After firing at the truck passenger, the gunman walked west on East Mildreda Avenue, where he came across a resident and opened fire, Dyer said. The resident was not struck by the gunfire.
The gunman continued walking on Mildreda and approached Fulton Street, where he fatally shot another man before reloading his weapon, a .357 revolver, Dyer said.
He then headed toward Catholic Charities in the 100 block of North Fulton Street and fired a second fatal volley of gunfire, killing a man in the parking lot, according to Dyer.
An officer in the area spotted the gunman running south on Fulton. He then “dove onto the ground” and was taken into custody, the chief said.
“As he was taken into custody, he yelled out, ‘Allahu akbar,’ ” Dyer said.
Dyer said Muhammad had expressed hatred toward white people and the government, a sentiment that came as no shock to his father.
“Not surprised at all,” said Muhammad’s father, Vincent Taylor.
A Facebook profile page for a Kori Ali Muhammad from Fresno paid homage to black pride and black nationalism, with images of the red, green and black Pan-African flag and a raised fist.
The frenetic profile includes militant and apocalyptic language and repeated demands to “let black people go.” He referenced “white devils” and praised melanoma skin cancer.
On Saturday afternoon, Muhammad posted a photo of himself in a colorful garment, with his head covered, and the words: “LET BLACK PEOPLE GO OR THE DOOM INCREASES REPARATIONS & SEPARATION NOW.”
He wrote in all caps Monday: “MY KILL RATE INCRESASES TREMENDOUSLY ON THE OTHER SIDE ASÈ ALLAH U AKBAR.”
Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said many of Muhammad’s social media postings make reference to terms used by the Nation of Islam, which has been labeled a racist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Pointing to Muhammad’s repeated references to “white devils” and “Yakub” — the villainous figure responsible for creating white people according to Nation of Islam lore — Levin said it is likely Muhammad thought he was taking part in a race war against whites.
“It reads to me that this is an example of an anti-white murder. We’re living in an era of violent reciprocal prejudice, and there are references on his website to Fard Muhammad, the founder of Nation of Islam, and Nation of Islam uses the term white devils quite prolifically, as did this shooter,” Levin said.
Muhammad also repeatedly used the phrase “Black Dragon Lion Hawk” in his Facebook posts, and Levin said such nods to warrior culture are also common in black separatist circles.
“He appears to be a black supremacist, a violent black supremacist,” Levin said.
Hours after the shootings Tuesday, two shaken workers at the Catholic charity said they had ducked under yellow police tape to get out.
They said they were told not to talk to the news media. But one, a Vietnam veteran, said a person never forgets the sound of guns. He said that the charity gives away food every day and that families are allowed to come only once a week.
“We feed a lot of children, so we have to make sure that the food gets spread around,” he said.
Neither of the workers saw young children there this morning. But there were a lot of teens and young adults.
The second man had been working in the back, and when he came out, he went around to people who were crying to ask, “Are you OK?”
Neither man knew Muhammad.
PG&E said it still was trying to gather information on what happened in Fresno.
“Our thoughts are with all involved in the incident that occurred in Fresno today,” PG&E said. “Public and employee safety is always our top priority.”
In a statement, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said he wished it was within his power to prevent tragedies like the one that unfolded downtown on Monday.
“This is a sad day for us all. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims,” he said. “None of us can imagine what they must be going through.”
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers Hailey Branson-Potts and James Queally contributed to this report from Los Angeles. Serna and Rocha reported from Los Angeles. Marcum reported from Fresno.
3:25 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details from police and comments from an expert on black nationalism.
3:00 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Taylor and from the suspect’s social media posts.
1:40 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from workers at Catholic Charities.
1:10 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from Police Chief Jerry Dyer and a comment from PG&E.
This article was originally published at 12:55 p.m.