The man suspected of executing a Queens imam and his assistant admitted to cops he was at the scene at the time and is the person caught on video sneaking up behind them but insists he never shot anyone, law-enforcement sources said Monday.
“I did not shoot the guy,’’ the suspect told investigators, referring to imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, according to sources.
The 36-year-old Hispanic suspect also denied killing the imam’s aide, Thara Uddin, 64, during the broad-daylight ambush on a South Ozone Park street Saturday, sources said.
But NYPD officials said they aren’t buying it — and were putting the suspect in a lineup and executing a search warrant on his home. They are still looking for the gun, according to sources.
“We believe because of the evidence we have acquired thus far that we strongly believe that this is the individual,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told reporters Monday evening.
“We can’t explain why he was there,” Boyce said. But “he was [at the scene] approximately 8 minutes before the homicide.”
The suspect has since clammed up and has yet to be charged, according to police sources.
His brother told The Post that he was shocked to learn his sibling had been taken into custody. The brother said he last talked to him Sunday evening — before he was apprehended.
“I spoke to him just last evening, and he was all nonchalant, like nothing has happened,’’ the brother said.
“He’s a hard worker,’’ he said of his sibling. “He had his first supermarket when he was 18 years old, in Yonkers. He’s a good guy.”
Some police sources and local residents have noted simmering tensions in the largely Hispanic neighborhood as the Bangladeshi Muslim population there grows.
But “preliminarily, [police] don’t have a motive for the shooting,” a law-enforcement source insisted. “They don’t know what it’s about.
“They know it was a hit — the guy came up from behind and shot them. But they don’t have a motive for why he did it.”
At the press conference, police explained how cops were able to track down the suspect through his GMC Trailblazer.
Surveillance footage showed the killer hopping into the SUV moments after pumping bullets into Akonjee and Uddin, sources said.
Detectives immediately entered the vehicle into their database system — and 10 minutes later, there was a reported hit-and-run in Brooklyn involving a bicyclist, and a GMC Trailblazer that matched the description.
“The hit and run happened at Pine and Pitkin about three miles away from mosque,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce explained. “We immediately responded to that location and pulled video from that corner.”
The video showed that the cars matched.
“The decals on each of the vehicles seemed identical,” Boyce said. “At that point, we started to do our grid search.”
Once they knew they had their man, officials said detectives began keeping tabs on the suspect.
Authorities tracked the trailblazer to East New York — where the suspect hopped into the vehicle and “rammed the detective’s car several times in an effort to get away,” Boyce said.
The suspect, who has no priors but does have driving violations, was promptly taken into custody at around 11 p.m., sources said.
The Muslim community believes the slayings were clearly religiously motivated.
Thousands of Muslims and other supporters gathered in Queens on Monday to demand justice in the murders — urging the NYPD to label the slayings as a “hate crime.” The large crowd was joined by Mayor de Blasio.