— Brian Chilson
SHOOTING SUSPECT: At LRPD this evening.
BREAKING: The shooting of two young soldiers, one fatally, outside the Army recruiting station on Rodney Parham about 10 a.m. this morning, has taken on a much broader dimension.
At an afternoon news conference, police said the man who’s suspected in the shooting did not know the victims but shot them because of “ideological reasons.” The suspect was described as a convert to Islam who specifically targeted soldiers for the attack.Police Chief Stuart Thomas said he didn’t appear to be part of a larger conspiracy and appeared to have acted alone.
“He has a disagreement with military operations” in Iraq and Afghanistan, Thomas said.
Federal agencies are on the case.
The suspect, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 24, lived on Mara Lynn Drive. He was formerly known as Carlos Bledsoe and apparently moved to Little Rock from Memphis two to three months ago. He also had lived in Nashville, Tenn. recently.
Police identified the dead soldier as Pvt. William Long, 24, of Conway. Wounded was Pvt. Quentin Ezeagwula, 18, of Jacksonville. He’s in serious condition, but isn’t believed to have life-threatening wounds.
The suspect drove up and begin firing at the two soldiers as they stood outside the recruit center in Ashley Square. A police detective heard a broadcast description of the black SUV used in the shooting and stopped it shortly after. The suspect surrendered without resistance.
Police recovered three guns — an SKS rifle, a .22 rifle and a semi-automatic pistol. The suspect has been charged with capital murder and 15 counts of a terroristic act for firing rounds into an occupied building.
The victims were not Army recruiters. They had recently completed basic training and were back in Arkansas to talk to others about their positive experiences as a recruiting tool for others.
They were shot while standing outside the recruiting office during a break. Police said shots erupted from a black SUV that drove up.
“At this point,” LRPD Chief Stuart Thomas said, “we believe that it’s associated with his disagreement over military operations. We believe that primarily it is a religious disagreement, and that he has a dislike for military personnel and military actions.”
“We have no indication that this individual did anything other than act alone, and of his own accord,” Thomas said. “It is our belief that he acted with specific intent to target military personel, and did so unilaterally and did so with intent today, and this day only.”
Capt. Matthew Feehan, the commander of the recruiting station where the attack occurred, said: “On behalf of the U.S. Army, our condolences go out to the families, especially the family of private Long. Any loss of life is tragic.” Feehan said the Army will bury Long with full military honors.
— Reporting by David Koon