Witnesses Say Muslim Man Was Killed in Islamophobic Attack in Indiana

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An Indiana man was taken into custody on a preliminary murder charge after a road rage incident last weekend, during which witnesses said he yelled religious and ethnic insults at a Muslim-American man before shooting and killing him. However, there is no opportunity under current law for Passarelli to be charged with a hate crime despite witnesses alleging that he hurled xenophobic slurs at the victim and told him to “get out” of the country, because Indiana is one of the few states left without such laws.

A police report obtained by Fox 59 alleges that 33-year old Dustin Passarelli got into a road rage incident with 32-year-old Mustafa Ayoubi on the night of Saturday, February 16. Passarelli told police that a car he claimed to be Ayoubi’s “aggressively” drove behind him, and that he thought someone “threw something at his car or hit his car.” Passarelli then proceeded to follow Ayoubi to an apartment complex where Ayoubi was meeting his friends, and said he did so because he wanted to get Ayoubi’s insurance information in case there was damage to his car.

That’s when friends who witnessed the shooting say they watched Passarelli “cussing at Mr. Ayoubi and using religious and ethnic insults such as, “Go back to your country.” Witnesses claimed that Passarelli then appeared to shine a light or a laser at Ayoubi, then shot at him multiple times. Ayoubi was unarmed and tried to run away as Passarelli shot him in the back twice; he was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Passarelli told police that Ayoubi lobbed an anti-Semitic remark at him first, and that Ayoubi punched his driver’s side window and cracked it. But three of Ayoubi’s friends who witnessed the shooting say that Passarelli committed a hate crime against Ayoubi.

Usman Ashraf, a friend of Ayoubi’s, told news station 93.1 WIBC that Passarelli was shouting anti-Islamic slurs at them and telling them they should “get out of our country, you are foreigners.” Ayoubi, a U.S. citizen, moved to the country in 2001 and graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, 13 WTHR reported.

“The guy that was in the car that was the shooter, he was screaming obscene words, saying Muhammad is a pedophile, Muhammad is, you all are, you follow worse kind of people…,” Ashraf told 13 WTHR. “Without giving any warning, he just started shooting…[Passarelli] emptied the whole clip on his back.”

A statement from Ayoubi’s family released to 13 WTHR says that Ayoubi died because “someone believed that he did not belong in the USA and he was a foreigner.”

Despite these accounts, Passarelli currently can’t be charged with a hate crime, as Indiana is one of five remaining states without a hate crime statute. A hate crime bill is currently making its way through the Indiana General Assembly; on Monday, the Indiana Senate’s Public Policy committee voted for hate crime bill SB 12, passing it to the Senate for a full vote. The version passed would apply to bias-motivated crimes regarding race, religion, “color,” disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation, amid other identity classifications. There’s no indication thus far that, if passed and signed into law, it would apply retroactively.

It appears that Indiana is having a hard enough time agreeing on just who this hate crime bill will protect. In January, the bill’s proponents feared that Indiana’s GOP would shut it down over a gender identity protection for transgender people. And while that protection made it through, a previous version of the bill protected political affiliation and law enforcement against would-be hate crimes against, say, Republicans and cops. However, an amendment removed those classes before Monday’s vote.

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