NEWARK – A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the shooting death of a religious leader early Wednesday morning.

Imam Hassan Sharif was shot as he arrived for pre-dawn prayers at the Masjid Muhammad Newark on South Orange Avenue around 6:15 a.m. He was taken to University Hospital where he died at 2:20 p.m.

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II said Sharif was shot several times as he sat in his car.

During a press briefing, Attorney General Matthew Platkin, Newark Public Safety Director Fritz Fragé and Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura all said there is no evidence at this point to indicate the shooting was a bias crime or an act of terrorism.

"We do not yet know the motivation for this crime," Platkin said. "And while we are not at liberty to discuss the progress of our ongoing investigative efforts, the evidence collected thus far does not yet indicate this was an act of motivated by bias or an act of domestic terrorism."

Newark police outside the Masjid Muhammad Newark mosque
Newark police outside the Masjid Muhammad Newark mosque 1/3/24 (ABC 7 Eyewitness News via YouTube)

Protecting all religious communities

Platkin acknowledged that many in the Muslim community are on edge and feeling anxious in light of "global events."

"Every member of the state of New Jersey deserves to live and worship however they chose to do so without fear for their safety," Platkin said.

Fontoura said Essex County Crime Stoppers is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible for the shooting.

The law enforcement leaders said video is being reviewed.

"At this time all investigative resources and agencies are being utilized although at this stage we do not have a motive," Stephens said.

ABC 7 Eyewitness News reported Sharif also worked for the Transportation Security Administration as an officer at Newark Liberty International Airport since 2006.

Fragé said that Sharif had been part of the mosque for five years and called his death a deep loss for the city.

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