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Victim’s family speaks out in ‘road rage hate crime’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The family of a man killed Saturday night in an apparent road rage shooting are speaking out against the death, calling it a hate crime. 

According to an autopsy report, Mustafa Ayoubi, 32, was shot eight times in a parking lot of the Lakeside Crossing Apartments at Eagle Creek on Feb. 16. IMPD officers say Dustin Passarelli, 33, identified himself as the shooter and was arrested on scene. 

Friday Ayoubi’s older sister, Zahra Ayoubi, 33, spoke to members of the media in front of the Marion County courtroom while Passarelli was inside for his initial hearing. She spent the majority of her statement praising her younger brother, calling him the “genius of the family,” saying he was “ahead in school” and attended the IU Kelley School of Business. 

She said her family buried him yesterday and that she doesn’t want any other family to have that experience. She said she’s fighting against this crime as a hate crime.

“It is what it is. A hate crime,” Zahra Ayoubi said.

She asked people to use the social media hashtag #Justice4Mustafa. She is supported by the Muslim Alliance of Indiana and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national organization who sent a representative to Indianapolis just for this criminal case.

The IMPD arrest affidavit for Passarelli released Thursday includes interviews from three witnesses and Passarelli himself. News 8’s Eric Feldman had already spoken to the witnesses Monday. They said they’re friends of Ayoubi and called his death a hate crime. 

In the arrest documents, the three witnesses told police Ayoubi was meeting them at the apartment complex to go play pool. The men told police Ayoubi showed up at the complex, got out of his car and got in a shouting match with a man, Passarelli, who had followed him there.  

Passarelli told police Ayoubi had driven up behind him on I-465 aggressively, honking and flashing his lights. Passarelli said he heard a bang and thought Ayoubi had hit his vehicle or thrown something at it, so he followed Ayoubi, looping twice around a McDonald’s parking lot until finally arriving at the apartments. 

The witnesses told police they heard Passarelli using religious and ethnic insults aimed at Ayoubi, Islam, and Muhammad.

“He starts saying ‘You are all foreigners. You have to get out of our country,’” said Usman Ashraf, a witness, “and that’s when I said, ‘We’re all American citizens. This is our country.’”

The three witnesses said Ayoubi was calling Passarelli a racist and said, “You know what get out of the (expletive) car let’s take it out right now.” 

In his interview in the arrest affidavit, Passarelli told police Ayoubi had used a religious slur, calling Passarelli a “dirty Jew” and saying “I’ll kill you, you (expletive) Jew.” 

The witnesses said Passarelli used many religious slurs throughout the argument, saying: “Muhammed was a pedophile,” “Go back to your (expletive) country,” and “I’m gonna (expletive) him and I’m gonna (expletive) Muhammed.” 

The witnesses told police they tried to calm everyone down but said Ayoubi walked to the driver’s side door and Passarelli opened fire.

According to the autopsy report Ayoubi was hit eight times, mostly in the back. The witnesses said Ayoubi tried to run away as Passarelli started shooting. 

“Mustafa turned around, he started running and, instead of shooting him once or twice, he (Passarelli) emptied the whole clip on his back,” said Ashraf. 

Passarelli remains in custody without bail for a murder charge.

Friday morning Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry released the following statement:

“We have said on many occasions, too many occasions in fact, that hate and crimes motivated by hate are real. Some in the legislature wish to push the dialogue into the hypothetical, but those of us who listen to our neighbors understand that this is an unfortunate reality in our state.

“While the disturbing allegations underlying the charge in this case remain to be proven at trial, we are obviously unable to charge this alleged act as a hate crime. The death of Mr. Ayoubi has been charged as a Murder, which we will vigorously prosecute to seek justice for Mr. Ayoubi, for his family and loved ones, and for all members of the Hoosier Muslim community who have been impacted by this tragedy.”

The FBI is monitoring this case for possible violations of federal hate crime laws. The current debate inside the Indiana Statehouse on a hate crime law would not be enacted in time to affect this case. 

News 8’s Tim McNicholas reached out to Prosecutor Curry’s office asking for an interview. A spokesperson declined the request and would not answer when McNicholas asked if Curry considers Ayoubi’s death a hate crime.