Police in the U.S. state of Virginia have charged a man with murdering a 17-year-old girl after assaulting her as she walked with friends from a nearby mosque in the suburbs of Washington, DC.
Authorities said there was a “dispute” between the two sides, and the girl’s friends fled as he got out of the car to attack her.
The friends then went to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) and police were called, setting off hours of searching that ended with officers finding a body believed to be the girl’s in a pond about five kilometers away.
During the search, police also said an officer saw a car driving erratically in the same area and stopped it, leading to the arrest of 22-year-old Martinez Torres as a suspect.
The Washington Post, citing police and a mosque official, said the group of four or five teenagers had gone to an IHOP restaurant early Sunday morning between prayers at the mosque and the start of that day’s fasting for Ramadan.
According to police, the initial attack happened about halfway along the two-kilometer route between the mosque and the restaurant, which goes past a neighborhood, bowling alley and shopping center on one side of the street and a tree-lined stream on the other side.
Authorities said they have not yet ruled out hate as a motivation for the attack.
ADAMS called on law enforcement to determine the motive and to “prosecute to the full extent of the law.”
“We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event,” ADAMS said in a statement. “It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth.”
The ADAMS website says it was established in 1983, and its main campus in Sterling, Virginia, about 50 kilometers west of Washington, has a mosque that can accommodate more than 700 people.
Virginia’s lieutenant governor and attorney general were among those condemning the attack Sunday.
“The ADAMS Center has always welcomed me and so many in Northern Virginia like family,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “This unspeakable attack feels like an assault on our entire community.”
“There is absolutely no place for this kind of violence in our Commonwealth,” said Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam. “Every Virginian should feel safe and welcome in our communities, and no parent should ever have to experience such a heartbreaking tragedy.”