Kori Ali Muhammad is a “calloused” racist who laughed while talking to police and his mother after admitting to fatally shooting three white men in Fresno on Tuesday, police Chief Jerry Dyer said.
“He’s not a terrorist, he is a racist, filled with hate,” Dyer said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. “He set out to kill as many as he could. He’s not going to kill anyone else.”
The Fresno Police Department shared a detailed timeline of Muhammad’s life from April 13, when he allegedly started his killing by gunning down a Motel 6 security guard as the man argued with his acquaintance, to the evening hours of Tuesday, when he walked detectives through the site of “his magic.” His chaotic tale started with a brazen rooftop escape from the first murder scene, four days of hiding out throughout Fresno and the shooting rampage that put at least 11 people in mortal danger.
Where it began
The story began Thursday night at the Motel 6 on Blackstone Avenue just north of Ashlan Avenue. That’s where Muhammad allegedly killed Carl Allen Williams III, 25, a guard who had just been promoted to supervisor with Monument Security, for disrespecting him – at least that’s what Muhammad told police.
Dyer said Williams, who was unarmed, and an armed subordinate were called to Muhammad’s room, where he was staying with a woman. The guards asked the pair to leave. While Muhammad attempted to get his money back from the front desk, he noticed his acquaintance arguing with Williams just outside the entrance. Muhammad walked up to Williams and without saying a word fired several shots from a .357 Magnum revolver.
Muhammad told police that he then ran south to a nearby 7-Eleven and climbed onto the roof. He watched as investigators searched the Motel 6 and interviewed witnesses. He waited on the rooftop all night and climbed down in the morning once he realized police had left.
He then went to a nearby school and hid out by a dumpster, Dyer said.
Police noted that stormy weather had kept the department from using its helicopter to aid in the search for the Motel 6 shooting suspect.
Muhammad eventually made his way north to the Herndon and Milburn avenues area, where he spent the weekend practicing Voodoo rituals. Dyer said Muhammad identifies as a Muslim, but he does not belong to a mosque and worships seven gods.
He’s not a terrorist, he is a racist, filled with hate.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer on confessed killer Kori Ali Muhammad
Muhammad moved again, to the west, and cut off his braids and set fire to them. He remained until Tuesday morning when he went to the Tower District intending to buy crystals at the Brass Unicorn. But the store was closed, so he went to a nearby Starbucks, where he was able to access the internet and learned he was wanted in the Motel 6 shooting, Dyer said.
“He told our detectives last night, he was not going to go down for shooting a security guard for disrespecting him, but was going to kill as many white males as possible,” Dyer said. “He said he did not like white men, white people were responsible for keeping blacks down. They needed to have their own land with their own laws.”
At 10:43 a.m. Tuesday, Muhammad began the rampage in which he would shoot at 11 people – mostly white men – and take three innocent lives in less than four minutes. Dyer described the timeline, which he said Muhammad shared with detectives. Muhammad’s description was quite consistent with the physical evidence, the chief added.
Muhammad intended to hunt white men as if he were hunting game.
He said he did not like white men, white people were responsible for keeping blacks down.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer on confessed killer Kori Ali Muhammad
The first man shot was Zackary David Randalls, 34, of Clovis. Muhammad encountered Randalls as he sat in the passenger side of a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. truck at an apartment unit at 330 N. Van Ness Ave. Randalls, a PG&E call center employee, was on a ride-along with a technician.
Dyer said Muhammad targeted Randalls but not the truck’s driver, a Hispanic man, because he was only looking to kill white men. He fired four shots at the truck, shattering its windshield. The driver sped off, rushing Randalls to the Fresno Police Department. He was rushed to Community Regional Medical Center, where he later died.
Muhammad walked south before turning west onto East Mildreda Avenue. He fired two more shots from the Van Ness and Mildreda intersection. One was aimed at a man standing outside a home at 934 E. Mildreda Ave.
Another shot hit a home across the street – 922 E. Mildreda. No one in that home was hurt.
Muhammad then used a speed loader to reload his revolver. As he approached Fulton Street, he fired one shot at a car carrying a 49-year-old woman, her 28-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old child. Muhammad pointed a gun at the occupants at he walked up to their car. When he realized they were Hispanic, he walked away, turning south onto Fulton.
Muhammad fired one shot, which hit Gassett in the chest. After Gassett collapsed to the ground, Muhammad walked to him, stood over the wounded man and executed him with two more shots.
Muhammad then spotted three white men waiting at a bus stop. He fired one shot, scattering the men.
Dyer said Muhammad identified David Martin Jackson, 58, as the prime target of the three because Jackson appeared “older and heavier” than the other men. Muhammad chased after Jackson, catching up to him in the Catholic Charities parking lot. Muhammad fired six shots: Two that hit and killed Jackson, two that hit parked cars, one that hit a nearby building and a final bullet that has yet to be recovered by police.
In all, 17 shots were fired. Muhammad then wrapped the gun in clothing and dropped it near the intersection of Fulton and Voorman Avenue. He then met and had a brief conversation with a man, described as Hispanic, who eventually picked up the gun. That man ran away through nearby yards, emptying the gun of six shell casings in the backyard at 161 N. Yosemite Ave. Dyer said police are reviewing surveillance video of the man; Dyer asked for him to call Fresno police at 559-287-6579 and turn the gun in.
Seconds after his encounter with the Hispanic man, Muhammad saw a patrol car at Fulton and Divisadero Street and gave himself up. He dropped several charm pendants, which he told police protected him against evil, just prior to surrendering.
About four minutes had gone by between Muhammad’s first shots and his arrest, Dyer said.
Muhammad told police he chose to give up because he was not a coward. This differentiated him from a terrorist, who he said kills people, then dies for the cause.
Dyer said Muhammad also told officers he respected Fresno police. He did not want to force them to kill him or thrust them into the spotlight.
“There’s a lot of reasons perhaps why” Muhammad would have surrendered, Dyer said. “I just believe he was OK with what he had done. It appeared that he was proud of what he had accomplished. He set out to fulfill a mission, and he fulfilled it.”
Police don’t know yet how Muhammad came to possess the gun. He is a convicted felon and prohibited from legally owning one. Dyer said he told detectives he had carried a gun since childhood and once shot someone when he was 12 – a claim that has not been confirmed.
After several hours in custody, Muhammad returned to the scene of his rampage to walk detectives through what happened. He showed no remorse and laughed several times during the walk, Dyer said.
At one point during the evening, police allowed Muhammad to speak to his mother. She cried when she saw her son.
Dyer said Muhammad told her not to cry because “he is still alive, his magic is powerful, and then he started laughing.”
Family in ‘shock’
Sharisse Kemp of Sacramento, a cousin of Muhammad, said Wednesday her family remains “in a state of shock.”
“We are hurt by this whole situation and we send our sincere condolences to the victims’ families as they are getting through this time,” she said.
Kemp said her family was raised to respect all people no matter their color or faith.
“My cousin loved his family and we loved him just as much and he always made sure we were OK,” Kemp said.
Muhammad showed up at his grandmother’s home on Sunday, three days after police say he shot Carl Williams. He was crying, said his grandmother, Glenestene Taylor. Without disclosing what he’d done, he said he was going away. Taylor said she knew nothing about her grandson’s problems until he was named Tuesday as the suspect in the Motel 6 shooting.
Taylor said her grandson went by the name Cory Taylor when he went to elementary and junior high school in Fresno before moving to Sacramento to live with his mother.
Kemp said her cousin changed his legal name to Kori Ali Muhammad from Cory Taylor while he was in prison. She said Muhammad tried getting jobs after he left prison in 2013 but nobody would hire him.
“We know firsthand that he has had some negative experiences with the white community that made it difficult for him,” she said. “His feelings and aggressions were about his experiences.”
Muhammad had asked family members recently why black people so often got mistreated, Kemp said.
She said that there are clearly issues between whites and blacks but that “can’t excuse what he’s done.”
We know firsthand that he has had some negative experiences with the white community that made it difficult for him. His feelings and aggressions were about his experiences.
Sharisse Kemp, a cousin of confessed killer Kori Ali Muhammad
“Our family, we love people, and racism and hatred is not something that was ever practiced in our home,” she said. “We are not blind to the differences in which blacks have been treated, but we were never raised to take people’s lives.”
Funeral costs covered
Dyer said that Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, pledged to the victims’ families that the federal government would pay for 100 percent of the funeral costs.
Costa, co-chairman of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus, was referring to funds under the Victims of Crime Act that passed in 1984, said Costa’s communications director Kristina Solberg.
“I think that’s where the focus needs to be – the victims and their families,” Costa said.
In many cases, the money comes from criminals forced to give up their assets such as boats, vehicle and weapons, he said.
“These are not taxpayer dollars,” he said.
Charges against Muhammad are expected to be brought Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court, officials said.
Fresno police are getting reports ready to present to the District Attorney’s Office. Once prosecutors gets the reports, charges should be filed Thursday, with an arraignment then set for Friday.
Kelly Lilles, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the charity added a couple more security guards Wednesday but plans to operate as usual going forward.
She said there has been an outpouring of support for Catholic Charities and that there was a long line of clients awaiting services as normal early Wednesday.
Phyllis Cervantes, 78, was among those who stopped by the growing memorial of flowers and candles outside Catholic Charities on Wednesday morning to say a prayer for the victims. She lives just a few houses away from the charity. As she saw the circle of candles and flowers on the sidewalk, she gasped, covered her mouth, and started to cry.
“I cry because every day – every day – is bad, bad,” she said, referring to crime in her neighborhood.
Staff writers Carmen George, Pablo Lopez and Lewis Griswold contributed to the story.