A former soldier has been handed a 55-year prison sentence for the “road rage” murder of a Muslim man, during which he allegedly hurled ethnic and religious insults at the victim. Dustin Passarelli was convicted of the murder of 32-year-old Mustafa Ayoubi, an Afghan-American, after shooting him by the roadside in northwest Indianapolis four years ago.
According to prosecutors, Passarelli followed Ayoubi off the main Interstate 465, leading to a verbal altercation. Witnesses at the scene reported that Passarelli directed several Islamophobic slurs at Ayoubi and shouted, “Go back to your country,” before opening fire.
The case gained FBI attention and coincided with debates among Indiana legislators on new hate crime legislation. However, the resulting bill, passed six weeks later, was criticized for being ineffective in addressing hate crimes, as it was watered down to a “bias crimes” law.
Passarelli, who was not charged with a hate crime or prosecuted in federal court, claimed self-defense to the police. He stated that he followed Ayoubi to an apartment complex after Ayoubi allegedly attempted to punch one of his car windows. Passarelli also cited PTSD from his military service.
The autopsy revealed that Ayoubi had been shot eight times, with one gunshot in the front shoulder and seven in the back, according to local media reports. Police found no evidence of damage to Passarelli’s car.
Ayoubi had made a life for himself in the United States after arriving as a refugee from Afghanistan. Following Passarelli’s guilty verdict, Zahra, Ayoubi’s sister, expressed her belief that justice had been served. She previously described her brother as kind, caring, intelligent, and a source of support for their mother.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization in the United States, reported a 23 percent decrease in Islamophobia complaints in 2022, with a total of 5,156 complaints received.