Neighbors say Craig Stephen Hicks was a confrontational man who regularly harangued them about parking their cars in the wrong place and noise at the condominium complex where they lived.
But the neighbors and Hicks’ wife say his angry and loud behavior did not include references of religious intolerance or racial hatred that some people say may be behind a fatal shooting in the complex Tuesday. The three victims were Muslim and of Middle Eastern descent; Hicks is white and a self-described atheist.
On his Facebook page, Hicks posted a confrontational message that appeared to address anyone who held a religious belief.
“When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me,” he wrote, without specifying a religion. “If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I. But given that it doesn’t, and given the enormous harm that your religion has done in this world, I’d say that I have not only a right, but a duty, to insult it, as does every rational, thinking person on this planet.”
Neighbor Samantha Maness, a 25-year-old Durham Technical Community College student, said Hicks was difficult to everyone, regardless of race or religion.
“He was aggressive toward a lot of people in the community,” said Maness, standing outside the building where Hicks lived. “He had equal opportunity anger toward a lot of the residents here.”
Things got so bad, Hicks’ neighbors held a community meeting last year at the clubhouse in their Finley Forest neighborhood about his tirades because his actions made them feel “unsafe and uncomfortable,” Maness said.
Hicks’ wife of seven years, Karen Hicks, and her attorney, Robert N. Maitland II of Chapel Hill, held a press conference to echo police in saying that the shootings were about longstanding parking concerns.
This was about “the mundane issue” of Hicks not being able to park his car and the “victims being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Maitland said.
Karen Hicks described her husband as tolerant.
“He just believes that everyone is equal,” she said. “One of the things I do know about him is that he would often post on his Facebook page that he was for same-sex marriage, abortion and race.”
Hicks had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and strongly believed he had a Second Amendment right to own a firearm, his wife said. But Maitland said the shootings also showed how important it is for all people to have access to adequate mental health care.
“Obviously it’s not normal behavior to shoot three people over parking issues,” he said.
Karen Hicks said she lived at the condo with her husband. She works full time, and said her husband was studying at Durham Technical Community College to become a paralegal. He was expected to graduate in May.
Hicks moved to Chapel Hill from Madison County, Ill., in 2005, shortly after his first marriage ended in divorce.
The length of Hicks’ residency in Illinois isn’t clear. Court records show he had traffic citations during the 1980s in Belleville. His first wife filed for divorce in 2004.
Hicks and his former wife were married in January 2004. The union produced one child, a daughter. Court documents show that his former wife accused him of “repeated, extreme mental cruelty.” At the time, Hicks was working as a valet at a Missouri casino and also worked in the parts department of a car dealership.
Hicks’ wife was granted custody of their child. He was granted visitation on alternate Saturdays and ordered to pay $350 a month in child support.
Beth Hundsdorfer of the Belleville News-Democrat contributed.