Former U.S. Marine Ted Hakey Jr. was arrested and charged for firing 30 shots from a high-powered rifle into the Ahmadiyya Baitul Aman Mosque located near his home in Meriden, CT., according to NBC Connecticut.
Hakey was intoxicated and angry about the terror attacks in Paris when he fired the shots into the mosque in the middle of the night.
He was sentenced to six months in prison and also received three years of supervised release after members of the mosque he shot at pleaded with the judge to lighten his sentence, a Department of Justice press release said.
He now spends time learning and spreading the message of the local Muslim community.
Only four of the bullets he fired pierced the building, but Zahir Mannan, a leader at the Baitul Aman Mosque, said the bullets also pierced the heart of the Ahmadiyya community. That specific group of Muslims have faced backlash for one belief in particular.
“That belief in itself, believing that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the Messiah, has made us the subject of persecution all over the world, but not here in America,” Mannan told NBC Connecticut.
Hakey said his previous understanding of Islam came only from what he read online.
“What you see on social media sites,” Hakey said. “That was my education of Islam.”
He requested to sit and meet with mosque leaders to apologize before his sentencing and that is when his life and attitude changed.
Hakey said not only their words, but more importantly the actions of mosque leaders led to him changing his thoughts on Islam.
During his six months in prison, Mannan reportedly visited Hakey every other week and even gifted him with keepsakes like his grandfather’s Holy Quran.
Mannan said he became his “brother” after Hakey offered to pray with him.
Hakey has not converted to Islam, but spends time reading the word and wants to encourage others to embrace the community that he once hated and is now a part of.
“I feel that I owe them just to get it out there so that people don’t make the same mistake that I did,” Hakey said.