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Anatomy of Hate

It was a triple-murder fueled by rage—but was it a hate crime?

This documentary was published in partnership with TIME.

Five years ago, three Muslim college students were gunned down in their home, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, by a white neighbor, Craig Hicks. Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha, two of the victims, had just been married. They were enjoying dinner with the bride’s sister, Razan Abu-Salha, who was also killed. Police labeled the crime a parking dispute, sparking outrage among Muslims around the globe.

The killings came amid a surge in reports of bias-motivated attacks against Muslims in America, which spiked 67 percent in 2015, according to FBI data. Overall that year, 5,850 hate crimes were reported across the country—a number that continues to grow. Last year, the FBI announced more than 7,120 reported hate crimes, with physical assaults reaching a 16-year high. Although the latest data shows fewer attacks against Muslims and Arab-Americans, civil rights groups say there are likely many more anti-Muslim incidents, including bullying and discrimination, that do not appear in FBI data.

Did the murder of the college students in Chapel Hill meet the definition of a hate crime? That question is at the heart of our new documentary re-examining a case that reverberated around the world. This film sheds light on the way the nation is responding to rising levels of bias-fueled violence and how we define what constitutes a hate crime under the law.

Produced by

Director/Producer Emily Kassie

Editor Margaret Cheatham Williams

Additional editor Arpita Aneja

Cinematography Nausheen Dadabhoy, Emily Kassie and Jason Arthurs

Supervising producers Justine Simons and Geraldine Sealey

Co-producer Joseph Neff

Additional footage Judy Phu, Caleb Goodnight, Emily Rhyne, Ray Whitehouse and Tarek Albaba

Motion graphics the STUDIO, Mary Nittolo and Eric Schutzbank

Sound Dan Dzula

Color Marika Litz

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Emily Kassie , director of visual projects, is an Emmy-nominated reporter and filmmaker who has covered corruption and abuse internationally. Named POYi’s Multimedia Photographer of the Year in 2019, her work has been honored with a National Magazine Award, an Overseas Press Club Award, two World Press Photo Awards, two Edward Murrow Awards and six National Press Photography Association Awards.