OZONE PARK, QUEENS – The men were walking near Al-Furqan Jame Masjid Mosque in New York City around 1:50 p.m. when they were shot, police said. One of the two men was killed, and the other is in critical condition.
A lone gunman opened fire on a Queens imam and his assistant as the two walked after Saturday afternoon prayers, leaving one dead and the other critically wounded.
The gunshots rang out near the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid Mosque in Ozone Park, leaving both men lying on the ground in their own blood just a block from the house of worship, according to witnesses.
The two were wearing Muslim garb when each was shot in the head around 1:50 p.m. on 79th St., said police sources. It was unclear if the killer said anything before he started shooting, and police did not identify which of the two men was killed.
Dozens of angry Muslim men gathered at the murder scene, making it clear they believed the shooting was a hate crime — with the two religious leaders specifically targeted.
“That’s not what America is about,” said local resident Khairul Islam, 33. “We blame Donald Trump for this … Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia.”
Witnesses described a chaotic scene where the shooter started firing at the two unarmed victims in the middle of a blistering August afternoon.
“We are devastated,” said Kobir Chowdhury, president of a second neighborhood mosque. “We needs to get to the bottom of this. We need to know if they did this just because of our religion.”
Another witness said the gunfire seemingly came from nowhere.
“All of a sudden I heard five shots,” said the witness, who declined to give his name. “I knew it wasn’t firecrackers. And then the commotion of the emergency (vehicles), and that’s when I knew.
“When I came here, they were doing CPR to both of the people on the ground.”
Local residents described the imam as a pious, well-respected member of the community. He planned on leaving for Bangladesh in 10 days to attend his son’s wedding, and has been head of the local mosque for four years, said Ahmed Zakria, a member of the mosque.
The imam is “a very sweet, soft-spoken, humble man,” said Chowdhury, 40. “He’s a role model as an imam, as a father, as a community member. He didn’t have any disputes with anybody.”
The two men were shot on 79th St. near Liberty Ave. about 1:55 p.m., officials said. First responders rushed the pair to Jamaica Hospital, where one of the two was pronounced dead.
Cops and witnesses described the shooter as tall and Hispanic, carrying a large handgun, and wearing a dark blue shirt and short pants. Police received a 911 call with a report of shots fired.
“I mean, I was scared,” said witness Steven Nauth, 27. “I had my little cousin out here and I told him to run.”
Police, without providing a motive, initially said the shooting was not a hate crime. The gunfire erupted near a storage facility and a block away from the elevated A train station, officials said.
“People being shot in the head in broad daylight is unheard of,” said Millat Uddin, a 25-year resident of the neighborhood. “Killing people brutally, like they’re an animal.”