FBI launches probe into Chapel Hill shooting
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The FBI is investigating the shooting deaths of three Muslim-American students earlier this week in Chapel Hill, N.C..

"The FBI is continuing to provide assistance to the Chapel Hill Police Department to process evidence related to a triple homicide investigation. The FBI has also opened a parallel preliminary inquiry to determine whether or not any federal laws were violated related to the case,” said the FBI in a statement to The Hill.

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According to reports, more than 5,000 gathered at N.C. State University to mourn the deaths of Deah Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19.

Police have charged Craig Hicks in the shooting deaths of the three Muslim students. 

On Wednesday, authorities said a "preliminary investigation" indicated the three were shot during a dispute over a parking space.

But the families of the victims and other Muslim Americans say that religious bias may have motivated the shooter.

The father of the two women slain has called the killings a "hate crime."

"I am confident based on my review of the facts that the parking answer is certainly not the whole story," added Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim member of Congress, during an appearance on CNN's "New Day" on Thursday. 

On Thursday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations praised the FBI in a statement.

"We welcome the FBI's increased involvement in this tragic case and hope the added resources and expertise the bureau has to offer will help see that justice is served," National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement. 

"This case is quickly becoming a touchstone for the American Muslim community's sense of security and inclusion."

—This story was last updated at 9:40 p.m.

Ben Kamisar contributed.