Ted Hakey Jr. now spends his days working to spread the word of the Muslim community in Meriden.
It’s a far cry from what he felt in his heart two years ago when he was arrested after shooting at an empty mosque.
“I was a Muslim hater,” Hakey told NBC Connecticut’s Keisha Grant in an exclusive interview.
The former U.S. Marine was arrested for a hate crime in November 2015 after firing 30 shots into the Ahmadiyya Baitul Aman Mosque on Main Street with a high-powered rifle a day after the Paris attacks.
Hakey said he found himself intoxicated and fed up with attacks halfway around the world.
“The night of the Paris attacks, you could see the mosque clearly from my house because there were no leaves on the trees,” Hakey said. “I went to get out of my car and looked over and kind of thought, ‘Well, let me do something about it.'”
Four of the 30 shots Hakey fired tore through the Baitul Aman Mosque in the middle of the night. It took federal and local authorities just hours to trace the bullets back to Hakey and the FBI arrested him on federal hate crime charges.
Zahir Mannan, one of the leaders of the mosque, said those bullets didn’t just pierce walls. They also shot fear through the heart of the Ahmadiyya community. This sect of Islam is made up by the only group of Muslims who believe in the Messiah.