By Rocco Parascandola, Joseph Stepasky and Sephan Rex Brown, For NY Daily News, On Aug 16th 2016, Read Original
The lone gunman busted for the cold-blooded execution of a revered Queens imam and his friend faces life in prison without parole if convicted in the double homicide.
Oscar Morel was officially charged with first-degree murder Tuesday in theweekend killings of mosque leader Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin as they walked side by side on a Queens street.
District Attorney Richard A. Brown acknowledged the motive behind the shootings remained unclear. Hate crime charges remain a possibility against Morel, 35, of Brooklyn.
The first-degree murder charge was announced after police sources said Morel stashed the murder weapon in a crudely concocted hole in the wall of his basement apartment.
The .38-caliber Taurus revolver police say Oscar Morel used to kill a Queens imam and his friend. (NYPD)
He also faces two counts of second-degree murder, and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
The not-so-secret hiding place created for the black .38-caliber Taurus revolver was quickly found by cops Monday evening, sources said.
Morel had cut out a piece of a wall, hid the gun inside the hole and then used sheetrock screws to re-install the piece, sources said.
When cops appeared at the apartment, the cuts in the wall were obvious, sources said.
Detectives were trying to determine if the revolver was linked to any other crimes. The gun is unlicensed, so police are still trying to determine how Morel got the weapon, sources said.
He worked as a porter at the New School since November 2013, the school said.
"While we are unable to comment on his arrest, we are cooperating fully with the authorities in this matter," the New School said in a statement.
Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 65, were both shot in the back of the head by a gunman who opened fire without saying a word, police said.
“The defendant is accused of the murder of a highly respected and beloved religious leader and his friend as they walked home from an afternoon prayer service,” said Brown.
“Their deaths are a devastating loss to their families and the community that they served as men of peace.”
Cops continued to scour Morel’s home for any evidence that would lead them to a motive, and are examining his phone, sources said.
Sources said police had yet to find evidence he was hired to commit the murders, but it remained an avenue of investigation.
Police also found clothes in Morel’s basement apartment that matched the outfit worn by the shooter and captured on security video, authorities said.
The deadly ambush was carried out with ruthless efficiency — but police say Morel’s wild behavior after the murders led to his arrest.
After Morel blasted the victims from behind in Ozone Park at 1:50 p.m., he fled in a black Chevy TrailBlazer, police said.
Ten minutes later, he was embroiled in a confrontation with a cyclist at Pine St. and Pitkin Ave., smashing his ride into the biker, cops said.
That led authorities to Morel’s East New York home. When approached by police Sunday evening, Morel rammed his vehicle into a detective’s car in a failed attempt to flee, police said.
Morel, who has one prior arrest for misdemeanor pot possession, admitted to being in Ozone Park at the time of the slayings, but demanded a lawyer when cops quizzed him further about the murders, a police source said.
He had no known ties to Ozone Park or the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque, where Akonjee preached.