More than 100 attended a candlelight vigil Wednesday night to remember Mustafa Ayoubi, an IU graduate who was slain about two weeks ago in what some are calling a hate crime.
Artificial and natural fire dotted the cold night. Mourners guarded the flames, afraid the candles would go out.
The Muslim Student Association at IU organized the vigil, where attendees walked from to Hodge Hall to Showalter Fountain. Ayoubi was killed Feb. 17 while driving to a friend’s house in Indianapolis.
Witnesses told police Ayoubi’s killer yelled racial and religious insults before shooting him, according to court documents. In the wake of his killing, people are organizing vigils and movements for hate crime legislation in Indiana.
Indiana is one of five states that does not have a law under which hate crimes can be prosecuted.
Ayoubi’s family said they have taken his death to call to fight for meaningful hate crime legislation.
The suspect in the case, Dustin Passarelli, 33, said he was driving near Ayoubi on the highway and heard a sound on the passenger side of his car, according to court documents. Thinking Ayoubi had hit his car, Passarelli followed him to get his information, which led to a fight between the two drivers.
The fight ended when Passarelli shot Ayoubi to death.
Passarelli told police he feared for his life after Ayoubi allegedly hit his car window twice with his fists, causing it to crack. According to the documents, he told officers he shot at Ayoubi to scare him off. After Ayoubi fell to the ground, Passarelli told police he and began performing CPR.
A friend of Ayoubi told police he saw Ayoubi make a fist as if he was going to hit a car window, according to the documents. He then said he saw a flash of light and then heard gunshots. Another one of Ayoubi’s friends reported hearing Passarelli shout insults about Ayoubi’s religion and taunts about his citizenship status before shots were fired.
Passarelli has been charged with murder but will not be charged with anything related to the alleged racist and islamophobic motivation of the violence. Indiana does not have a hate crime law.
Sophomore Tasfia Chowdhury, Muslim Student Association social justice chair, said Ayoubi’s death reverberated throughout the Muslim community.
“The entire Muslim community was shook by it because it was an explicit hate crime,” Chowdhury said. “It happened so close to home.”
It was the organization’s responsibility to both honor Ayoubi and his family as well as address hate crimes, Chowdhury said.
“Everyone deserves to be protected,” she said.
Chowdhury said she needed to help push for a hate crime law that protects minorities and helps Indiana residents.
“It’s disrespectful to the residents of Indiana who are members of minority groups,” Chowdhury said.
Terry Curry, a prosecutor on the case, said in a press release hate-based crimes are all too real in Indiana, and it is time to acknowledge that fact.
Some Indiana lawmakers are looking into writing a bill that would allow for crimes to be prosecuted as hate crimes, as one bill moving through the legislature only lengthens criminal sentences and doesn’t protect specific groups.
The lack of a hate crime charge has led human rights groups around the state to organize protests and vigils. People attended a separate candlelight vigil for Ayoubi on March 1 in Indianapolis organized by the Muslim Alliance of Indiana.
During the Indianapolis vigil, Zahra Ayoubi said her brother died because of someone else’s intolerance.
“We are here because we lost a loving Hoosier to hate,” Zahra Ayoubi said. “Today, we are just not lost. We are lost, and we are broken.”
Zahra Ayoubi, along with other members of her family, also attended the Bloomington vigil.
She spoke about how her brother was always there for her and how his presence made her feel comforted and safe.
“He was the first person to call,” Zahra Ayoubi said.
She talked about how her brother provided for the family and was their rock after their father’s death.
She said her brother’s death was ironic. It was cruel for someone who was so full of love to be destroyed by hate.
“What happened to Mustafa was far from humanity,” she said.