Virginia Police Investigating Muslim Teen’s Killing as ‘Road Rage Incident’

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Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, of Sterling, Va., charged with murder. Courtesy Fairfax County Police Dept./Handout via REUTERS

A teenage Muslim girl killed near a Virginia mosque was an apparent victim of "road rage" and her death is not being investigated as a hate crime, police said on Monday.

The 17-year-old girl, identified by relatives and friends as Nabra Hassanen, was assaulted before dawn on Sunday in Sterling, Va., about 30 miles west of Washington, after attending overnight prayers for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when many Muslims fast from dawn until sunset.

The exact cause of her death has not been made public, but a statement from the Fairfax County police said Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, has been arrested and charged with murder.

Martinez, a Sterling resident, was in his car when he got into a dispute with the girl and a group of her friends as they walked back from a McDonald's restaurant following prayers at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque, known as ADAMS, police said.

"This tragic case appears to be the result of a road rage incident involving the suspect," a police statement said. "Our investigation at this point does not indicate the victim was targeted because of her race or religion."

She and her friends were dressed in abayas, the robe-like dress worn by some Muslim women, according to the Washington Post, prompting fears the victim was targeted because she was Muslim.

Police arrested Martinez an hour or two after the assault when he was seen driving suspiciously. They found what they believed to be the girl's body on Sunday in a pond.

"Something happened and he [Martinez] became upset. The group started separating a little bit. The victim happened to be closest to him and then he assaulted her," Tawny Wright, a Fairfax County police spokeswoman, said by telephone.

She said she was unable to comment further.

Martinez was assigned a public defender on Monday and a judge ordered that he remain in jail without bail, according to Raymond Morrogh, the Fairfax commonwealth's attorney, the county's chief prosecutor.

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