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Muslim Convert Gunman Targeted Military

June 4, 2009

OneNewsNow.com – 2 June 2009

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Police describe it as a killing motivated by politics and religion: A Muslim man- a convert to the religion- upset with the U.S. military drove to a recruiting center and opened fire on two soldiers, fatally wounding one.

Monday’s shootings are not believed to be part of a broader scheme. Instead, authorities say Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad acted on his own when he drove to a shopping center in western Little Rock and began shooting in broad daylight.

“We believe that it’s associated with his disagreement over the military operations,” Police Chief Stuart Thomas said.

The two soldiers who were shot hadn’t even seen combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. They completed basic training within the past two weeks and were not regular recruiters, said Lt. Col. Thomas F. Artis of the Oklahoma City Recruiting Battalion, which oversees the Little Rock office.

William Long, 23, of Conway, died, and Quinton Ezeagwula, 18, of Jacksonville, was wounded and in stable condition.

A police report based on an interview with the suspect says Muhammad, 23, told police he observed two soldiers in uniform, drove up to the recruiting center and began shooting.

“He saw them standing there and drove up and shot them,” Lt. Terry Hastings told The Associated Press. “That’s what he said.”

Both men were from nearby hometowns and volunteered to work at the recruiting center to attract other locals to the military. “They can show the example, ‘Here’s where I was, and here is where I am,'” Artis said.

Messages left for family members of Long and Ezeagwula were not immediately returned Monday evening.

Police arrested Muhammad along a highway moments after the shootings at the Army-Navy Career Center.

Muhammad had converted to Islam at some point in his life and interviews with police show he “probably had political and religious motives for the attack,” the police chief said.

Muhammad, previously known as Carlos Bledsoe, was not part of a larger group nor was his attack part of a larger conspiracy, Thomas said.  [NO, he was just your typical Muslim convert]

Thomas said Muhammad would be charged with first-degree murder, plus 16 counts of committing a terroristic act. Thomas said most additional counts resulted from the gunfire occurring near other people.

The accused shooter’s father, Melvin Bledsoe of Memphis, Tenn., hung up on a reporter who called about his son’s arrest Monday night.

Witnesses told police that a man inside a black vehicle pulled up outside the recruiting center and opened fire about 10:19 a.m. Long fell onto the sidewalk outside the center while Ezeagwula was able to crawl toward its door.

Police said an assault rifle and other weapons were found in the vehicle when Muhammad was arrested.

Jim Richardson, the manager at a store around the corner from the Army-Navy center, said people at the store didn’t realize anything was amiss until hearing sirens outside.

“Nobody heard any gunshots,” Richardson said.

Steven Johnson, an 18-year-old recruit, was on his way to take a qualifying test when he found police cars at the center. By early afternoon, Johnson was waiting patiently outside the yellow police tape.

“I’m going to check and see if they’re all right,” he said.

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