By Colleen Jenkins WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday described the deaths of three young Muslims gunned down in North Carolina this week as "brutal and outrageous murders" and said no one in the United States should be targeted for their religion. The president's statement came as the U.S. Justice Department said it would join the FBI's preliminary inquiry to determine whether the man accused in the Chapel Hill shooting on Tuesday broke any federal laws, including hate crime laws. The families had called on Obama to insist that federal authorities investigate whether the murder suspect, 46-year-old paralegal student Craig Stephen Hicks, was motivated by hatred toward the victims because they were Muslim. Newlywed Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, a student at North Carolina State University, were killed in a condominium about two miles (three km) from the UNC campus.
WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) — A team of police officers and government agents surrounded a house early Friday and arrested a man they suspect killed three people and injured three others in a barbershop shooting last week, officials said.
Officials in 24 Alabama counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Friday, gay rights advocates said, a day after a U.S. judge ordered one local official to issue licenses to gay couples in accordance with an earlier ruling. The shift means that a majority of Alabama counties are now granting licenses to same-sex couples. It also indicates that defiance to a federal ruling striking down the state's gay marriage ban is weakening, as fewer local judges follow a contravening order from the chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court. "These numbers represent a seismic shift in favor of equality and justice," said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, in a statement.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — In a state where tobacco interests once had a firm grip on the levers of politics, the Kentucky House of Representatives on Friday passed a ban on smoking in workplaces and indoor public places.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Anthem Inc. is offering several levels of free identity theft protection to current and former customers after hackers broke into a database storing information for about 80 million people.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (AP) — A military hospital on Friday released the last five of 22 Marines accidentally exposed to a fire retardant gas during a training exercise at a Southern California base, a Marine Corps spokesman said.