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Army vet who shouted ‘Muhammad is a pedophile’ convicted of murdering Muslim driver in road rage incident off freeway

Dustin Passarelli, Mustafa Ayoubi

Dustin Passarelli (Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department), Mustafa Ayoubi (pictured in a tweet by his sister Zahra)

Jurors on Wednesday convicted a former Army serviceman for murdering another driver in a road rage incident in which the defendant called the Prophet Muhammad a “pedophile.”

At least one witness suggested that the defendant, Dustin E. Passarelli, 37, targeted Mustafa Ayoubi, 32, because of the victim’s ethnicity. He was never charged in a hate crime, even in federal court. The state of Indiana did not have such a statute at the time of the Feb. 16, 2019 incident.

Though Passarelli’s attorneys argued he acted in self-defense, prosecutors said that it was he who followed the victim off the 465 freeway, through a McDonald’s parking lot and into a residential area in order to instigate a confrontation, according to the IndyStar.

“He had a choice to leave,” deputy prosecutor Janna Skelton said, “and he stayed.”

Passarelli yelled “Muhammad is a pedophile” from inside his car multiple times, a witness said.

According to Indianapolis police, he claimed that Ayoubi either threw an object at his car or collided with it while they were driving on the 465 freeway. Passarelli claimed Ayoubi broke his window with a punch and reached into his vehicle when the shooting happened.

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Witnesses said that Ayoubi walked to the driver’s side of the defendant’s car and told Passarrelli to get out, according to the outlet. Ayoubi made a fist and the defendant shot him, the witnesses said.

“Someone was entering in his vehicle illegally, same as someone kicking at your door or busting your window,” defense co-counsel Benjamin Jaffe argued.

Witnesses reportedly did not describe Ayoubi striking the window, however. Prosecutors said that the victim lacked any of kind of wounds that would substantiate him allegedly punching out the glass.

Authorities said the victim sustained gunshot wounds near his shoulder and multiple times in his back.

Passarelli’s counsel Chris Eskew told the IndyStar that the defense was disappointed with the verdict. The lawyer otherwise declined to comment until after the scheduled June 21 sentencing. He previously told the outlet his client’s PTSD “definitely” played a role in the shooting.

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Mustafa Ayoubi’s sister welcomed the verdict.

“God did not let us down and did not disappoint my mom, who has been praying for the past three days,” Zahra Ayoubi said.

She also shared a poem on Twitter reacting to the conviction of her brother’s killer:

In a world torn by prejudice and fear,
He stood tall, his essence clear.

A soul so bright,
Cut short by hate, in the depths of night.

He was more than a victim, he was a flame,
He stood and put hate to shame.

Justice served!

#Justice4Mustafa #HateCrime #convicted #murder

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