The .38-caliber murder weapon.
By Michael V. Cusenza
A Brooklyn man has been convicted of first-degree murder for the broad-daylight execution of Ozone Park Imam Maulana Akonjee and his associate and friend, Thara Uddin, who were gunned down on Liberty Avenue as they walked home following prayers at the Al-furqan Jame Masjid Mosque in August 2016, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced on Friday.
After a three-week jury trial, Oscar Morel, 37, was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, and one count of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced on April 18.
“Justice has been served,” City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) tweeted on Friday.
According to trial testimony, on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, the imam and Uddin were walking on Liberty Avenue near 79th Street just before 2 p.m. when Morel approached them from the rear. Pointing a .38-caliber revolver at their heads, Morel fired several shots and fled the scene. Imam Maulana, 55, was hit four times in the head and body. Uddin, 64, was shot once in the head. Both men were rushed to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where they succumbed to their injuries.
According to trial records, video surveillance from near the scene of the shooting showed Morel exit a black SUV and walk toward the two victims off-camera; moments later Morel was observed on the same video camera running back to his vehicle and leaving the area.
Brown noted that about 12 minutes after the shooting Morel was seen on video surveillance in Brooklyn at Pitkin and Pine avenues where he allegedly hit a bicyclist with his SUV and fled the scene without stopping. A good Samaritan who witnessed the incident followed Morel in his own vehicle to record his license-plate number for authorities.
Brown also cited evidence presented at trial, including the gun that was recovered from Morel’s East New York apartment. Forensic analysis confirmed that the bullets that killed the imam and Uddin were fired from that revolver.
Brown said Morel’s “senseless” actions “caused immeasurable grief – not only to the victims’ families, but the slaying struck at the heart of the Muslim community of Queens. I am hopeful today’s verdict will bring some closure to the family and many friends of the two men killed.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations released a statement on behalf of the Akonjee and Uddin families.