A man accused of killing at least two Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will remain in custody as he awaits trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Muhammad Syed, 51, faces murder charges in the killings of Aftab Hussein, 41, and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, which police say occurred on July 26 and August 1, respectively.
Syed is also the primary suspect in the homicides of Mohammad Zaher Ahmadi, 62, who was killed November 7, and Naeem Hussain, 25, who was killed August 5. Syed has not been charged in those killings.
Syed denied involvement in the killings during an interview with police last week, according to an arrest affidavit.
The killings of the four Muslim men who were all of South Asian descent terrorized the Muslim community in Albuquerque, with fear spreading to other parts of the state.
Second Judicial District Court Judge Joseph Montano determined Wednesday that Syed’s release before trial would pose a risk to the public.
“I am finding that the information does indicate that Mr. Syed would pose a threat to the community at large if I were to release him pending trial,” Montano said.
John Duran, deputy district attorney with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, argued Syed’s prior arrests are evidence that he should remain in jail and accused him of “lying in wait” and hunting people in the community.
“Clearly what we have here is not just one crime of violence, but as Mr. Duran points out, two crimes of violence. We have two incidents where Mr. Syed is alleged to have committed murder while he’s lying-in wait, using a scope on an AK-47 to hunt these two individuals,” Montano said.
Syed had “a few minor misdemeanor arrests (from the Albuquerque Police Department) from domestic violence” and some other incidents, Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of the city police department’s criminal investigation division, said last week. All three previous domestic violence charges Syed faced were dismissed, Hartsock said.
Syed’s attorney, Megan Mitsunaga, said her client’s track record of showing up to court and not having any prior convictions are reasons he should be released.
Syed watched the video-conferenced hearing from the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center and listened with the aid of an interpreter.
On Monday, a judge ruled Syed’s son, Shaheen Syed, should remain in federal custody on a charge tied to his father’s case.
The younger Syed is accused of knowingly making false statements to investigators about the weapons and vehicle alleged to have been used in at least two of the killings. His attorney, John C. Anderson, called the allegations that his client could be tied to the killings “exceedingly thin and speculative.”