Moments after a North Carolina man pleaded guilty to gunning down three Muslim university students, a prosecutor played a cellphone video of the slayings in the courtroom Wednesday as one of the victims' relatives fainted, others wept openly, and a man hurled an expletive at the confessed killer. Craig Stephen Hicks, 50, entered the plea to three counts of first-degree murder in a packed Durham courtroom, the AP reports. It came two months after incoming District Attorney Satana Deberry dropped plans to seek the death penalty in hopes of concluding a case that she said had languished too long. "I've wanted to plead guilty since day one," Hicks told Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson. The judge said Hicks had agreed as part of his plea to accept three consecutive life sentences without parole.
Police say that in February 2015, Hicks burst into a Chapel Hill condo owned by 23-year-old Deah Barakat, who turned on his phone's video to capture their exchange. At the time of the shootings, Chapel Hill police said Hicks claimed he was provoked by competition over parking spaces at the condo complex. The video shows Hicks complaining that Barakat; his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her 19-year-old sister Razan Abu-Salha were using three parking spaces. When Barakat responds that they're not taking any more spaces than condo rules allow, Hicks pulls a gun from his holster and fires several times. The phone drops to the floor inside the front door, the sounds of women screaming can be heard, and then several more shots are heard. (More on the case, and why hate crime charges were not pursued, here.)