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Muslim convert pleads not guilty in killing of soldier

Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23, is charged with murder and 15 counts of engaging in a terrorist act in connection with a shooting at a military recruiting office in Little Rock, Ark.

June 03, 2009|Kate Linthicum

The man accused of killing a soldier and wounding another outside a military recruiting office in Little Rock, Ark., pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

Prosecutors charged Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a 23-year-old Muslim convert, with capital murder and 15 counts of engaging in a terrorist act in connection with Monday's shooting, which left Army Pvt. William Long, 23, dead, and Army Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, 18, injured.

Muhammad was ordered held without bail.

"If there had been more recruits out there at the time, he would have killed more of them, or tried to," prosecutor Larry Jegley said. "It's my understanding that after his conversion to Islam he decided that he had a bone to pick with the military officers because of what he perceived to be mistreatment of Muslims around the world."

Assistant U.S. Atty. Pat Harris said his office might pursue federal charges.

Muhammad, who was known previously as Carlos Bledsoe, acted alone and was not part of a larger plot, said Cassandra Davis, a spokeswoman for the Little Rock Police Department. She said Muhammad previously lived in Memphis, Tenn., and Nashville and had recently moved to Little Rock.

Iftikhar Pathan, the president of the Islamic Center of Little Rock, said Muhammad had never worshiped at the center's mosque.

"This man who claims to be a Muslim has never been seen in our Islamic center," Pathan said.

Long and Ezeagwula had only recently completed basic training at Ft. Benning in Georgia and had been asked by the Army to return to Arkansas to work in the recruiting office. Neither had seen combat.

Long and Ezeagwula were smoking outside of the Army-Navy Career Center in a shopping center in northwest Little Rock on Monday morning when, police said, Muhammad pulled up in a black Ford pickup and opened fire with an assault rifle.

Muhammad fired several rounds before fleeing, Davis said. He was stopped 15 minutes later by police and taken into custody. She said police found several guns inside his truck.

Long, who was from Conway, a town 30 minutes north of Little Rock, was pronounced dead shortly after the shooting.

He had been scheduled to join a unit at Ft. Bliss, Texas, in two weeks, according to Army Lt. Col. Thomas F. Artis, commander of the Oklahoma City recruiting battalion, which oversees the Little Rock office.

Ezeagwula, of Jacksonville, Ark., was in good condition Tuesday, Davis said.

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kate.linthicum@latimes.com

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