INDIANAPOLIS — A suburban Indianapolis Army veteran was sentenced to 55 years in prison Wednesday for the road rage shooting death of a Muslim man after witnesses said he hurled ethnic and religious insults at the victim.

Dustin Passarelli of Plainfield was convicted in May of murder and a felony firearm enhancement in the February 2019 shooting death of 32-year-old Mustafa Ayoubi.

Passarelli followed Ayoubi off Interstate 465, and a verbal altercation took place, prosecutors said. Witnesses said Passarelli made several Islamophobic remarks, including “Go back to your country,” and used hate speech before opening fire.

Passarelli told police that Ayoubi either threw something at his car or collided with it on the highway and that after he followed Ayoubi to an apartment complex, Ayoubi broke one of Passarelli’s car windows with a punch.

The defense argued that Passarelli was within his rights to fire at Ayoubi because it was self-defense.

Passarelli was not charged with a hate crime. Six weeks after Ayoubi’s killing, Indiana lawmakers passed a hate crimes bill that included a provision allowing judges to impose longer sentences for crimes motivated by bias.

Ayoubi came to the U.S. from Afghanistan as a refugee.

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