Ali Muhammad Brown was already a suspect in the murder of three Seattle men when he shot 19-year-old Brendan Tevlin eight times at a West Orange traffic light in his home state of New Jersey in June.
Brown is described as a devout Muslim man who killed as part of what prosecutors allege was a “bloody crusade” against the United States. He sought revenge against America for what he said was the wanton killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tevlin was allegedly Brown’s fourth victim.
Brown’s victims, with the exception of Tevlin, had a similar background: they were young, gay men.
Brown met two of his victims at a gay-themed Seattle nightclub. Court documents indicate that Brown used a mobile application to set up meetings with his two victims before committing a double homicide. Brown is also implicated in the murder of a third man whose body was found on a highway outside Seattle in April, KIRO-TV Seattle reported.
Brown’s homicides made news in June, but his story fell off the radar until Wednesday when King County prosecutors charged him with murder. Brown’s prosecutors made it clear that the accused killer’s motives were to terrorize, though he did appear to operate according to a perverse code of conduct:
“In a subsequent July 25 recorded interview in New Jersey, [King County sheriff’s Detective John] Pavlovich wrote, Brown described his idea of a ‘just kill,’ in which the target was an adult male unaccompanied by women, children or elderly people,” CBS News reported.
The LA Times has more:
“My mission is my mission between me and my lord. That’s it,” Brown said during a jailhouse interview in New Jersey, according to the court filings. “My mission is vengeance, for the lives, millions of lives are lost every day.”
Brown may eventually face federal and/or state-level terrorism charges, but few press accounts of his attacks – most of them in local outlets — state clearly that Islamic jihadist ideology inspired him. “All these lives are taken every single day by America, by this government. So a life for a life,” court documents allege Brown said of United States actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some outlets are not mincing words about the nature of Brown’s crimes. A July report via a Seattle-based Fox affiliate described Brown as a “radical jihadist” who targeted homosexual men, but few have followed suit.
This is a story tailor-made for the national press but, rather than highlighting it, the opposite has occurred. It seems that the press has sanitized the actions and motives of Brown and his two accomplices. He was not simply a murderer and a criminal, though he was most certainly both of those things. Brown was also a terrorist who targeted a specific group of victims based on their sexual identity. It is quite uncharacteristic of the press to understate those two facts.
Brown’s killing spree seems like it should be considered hate crimes at the very least, if not overt acts of terrorism. Why, then, has it not been presented in that fashion in the press?
This post has been updated since its original publication.