ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque man accused of killing two Albuquerque Muslim men will stay locked up in jail while awaiting trial. The decision was made by a judge Wednesday. Muhammad Syed, 51, is facing two open counts of murder connected to the July 26 killing of Aftab Hussain, and the August 1 killing of Muhammed Afzaal Hussain.
From inside the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, Syed appeared via video link in a “pretrial detention hearing” Wednesday afternoon. Second Judicial District Court Judge Joseph Montaño ruled in the case after attorneys spent roughly an hour arguing over if Syed should be eligible for conditions of release while awaiting trial for two murders.
“This is a case where the state has charged two open counts of murder in the same criminal information,” Judge Montaño said. “I cannot tailor conditions for release for Mr. Syed.”
An attorney with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, John Duran accused Syed of “actively hunting” people in Albuquerque. Syed was also described by the prosecutor as “lying in wait” ahead of the murders.
“He was doing so with an assault rifle which was later enhanced with a scope,” Duran said. “There is nothing, absolutely nothing that Pretrial Services can do, GPS, or otherwise, that would prevent this individual from continuing to commit violent acts against individuals in our community.”
Syed was arrested last week roughly 150 miles east of Albquerque in Santa Rosa, on Monday, August 8. The arrest came just five days after police announced the investigation into connections between the deaths of three Muslim men. In the end, police say four Muslim men were murdered, each of whom were killed in apparent ambushes.
“It seems from this statement that he [was] attempting to flee the jurisdiction,” Judge Montaño said of Syed’s arrest in Santa Rosa. “Pretrial Services isn’t able to prevent someone from leaving an exclusion zone in GPS [monitoring.]”
In the July 26 killing of Aftab Hussain, prosecutors say Syed hid behind a bush near the victim’s driveway. “As the victim pulled into the driveway and exited his car, the defendant opened fire and shot approximately 13 round at the victim.”
In the August 1 killing of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, prosecutors say Syed shot and killed Hussain before driving away from the scene. According to prosecutors, “a search warrant executed on the defendant’s home revealed multiple firearms that matched the casing found at the scenes of the crimes.”
In a motion filed ahead of the hearing, prosecutors from the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office argue in part that Syed should be kept in jail while awaiting trial because, “no release conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community.” Prosecutors also said Syed’s “actions make it clear that human life holds no value [to him.]”
In Syed’s defense, attorney Megan Misunaga argued that Syed has only one document instance of failing to appear for a court hearing. Despite numerous previous arrests, Syed has not been convicted in any criminal cases.
Syed’s defense was requesting for him to be placed on 24 hour a day, 7 day a week house arrest. Judge Montaño ruled against that request.
Police are still investigating a motive in the killings, however, they believe Syed “knew the victims to some extent” and that “an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shootings.”
In 2020, a surveillance video captured by the Islamic Center of New Mexico appears to show Syed slashing the tires of the car belonging to the family of one of the first of four Muslim men killed in Albuquerque. Mohammed Zahir Admadi was killed in November 2021.
Police say four Muslim men were murdered, including Mohammad Zahir Ahmadi, 62; Aftab Hussein, 41; Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27; and Naeem Hussain, 25. So far, Syed is only facing charges in the deaths of A. Hussein and M.A. Hussain. However, Syed is considered a suspect in all four murders.
Since Muhammad Syed’s arrest, Syed’s son has also been arrested on federal charges tied to a gun purchase. On Monday, a federal judge ordered Shaheen Syed to be held in jail while awaiting trial on the gun charge.
Continuing coverage on KRQE.com:
- November 8, 2021: Homicide investigation begins after reports of gunshots in NE Albuquerque
- July 27: Shooting in northeast Albuquerque leaves one dead
- August 1: APD investigating fatal shooting near UNM
- August 3: Victim’s family in fatal shooting near the University of New Mexico speaks
- August 4: Police: 3 separate murders of Muslim men in Albuquerque could be related
- August 5: Friends of slain Muslim man, Aftab Hussein, speak about his love for the community
- August 6: Homicide could be connected to other Muslim shootings
- August 7: APD seeks vehicle of interest in homicide investigation
- August 8: Victim’s brother speaks out as police investigate if Muslim murders are connected
- August 8: Muslims fleeing Albuquerque, Afghan community remembers 4th victim
- August 9: Family of man accused in Muslim murders speaks out
- August 10: Police search for motive as community grapples with murder of Muslim men
- August 10: Son of suspect arrested in murders of Albuquerque Muslim men also in custody
- August 11: Albuquerque Police releases Muhammad Syed arrest video
- August 13: Prosecutors say son of man charged in Muslim murders connected to shootings
- August 15: Albuquerque murder suspect’s son to stay in jail on gun charges
- August 16: Albuquerque’s Muslim community leader responds to murders, suspect’s arrest