President Obama on Friday denounced the "brutal and outrageous murders" of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, N.C.
"No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship," Obama said in a statement.
Craig Hicks, 46, has been charged with three counts of first degree murder in the case, suspected of shooting to death Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21; and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
Chapel Hill police say they believe the shooting may have been the result of a parking dispute, but the father of the female victims has said he believes their religion played a role.
"We have no doubt that the way they looked and the way they believed had something to do with this," Mohammad Abu-Salha told CNN.
The wife of the alleged shooter denied that in a press conference earlier this week.
"This incident had nothing to do with religion or the victims' faith, but in fact was related to the longstanding parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors," Karen Hicks said.
Obama said the FBI was looking into whether any federal laws were violated. That investigation is expected to include consideration of civil rights violations.
The president also extended his condolences to the families of the slain students.
"As we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family," Obama said. "Whenever anyone is taken from us before their time, we remember how they lived their lives — and the words of one of the victims should inspire the way we live ours."
The president's full statement follows:
Yesterday, the FBI opened an inquiry into the brutal and outrageous murders of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In addition to the ongoing investigation by local authorities, the FBI is taking steps to determine whether federal laws were violated. No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship. Michelle and I offer our condolences to the victims’ loved ones. As we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family. Whenever anyone is taken from us before their time, we remember how they lived their lives – and the words of one of the victims should inspire the way we live ours.
“Growing up in America has been such a blessing,” Yusor said recently. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. There’s so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions – but here, we’re all one.”