MERIDEN — Federal authorities have charged a city resident and former U.S. Marine with a hate crime after several shots were fired into a South Meriden mosque just hours after the terrorist attacks in Paris. The man, who lives next door to the mosque, admitted to firing several rounds from a handgun and rifle but told investigators he didn’t intend to hit the empty mosque.
Ted Hakey, Jr., 48, was arrested Thursday night in the shooting at Baitul Aman Mosque, 410 Main St. on Nov. 13, according to Tom Carson, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Haven. He was charged with damages to religious property, a federal charge carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge is considered a hate crime by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Hakey lives at 380 Main St., a house next door to the mosque. The mosque and house are separated by a small portion of Vasa Park.
City police were notified on Sunday, Nov. 15 after members of the mosque discovered bullet holes. During the initial investigation, authorities could be seen inside the house at 380 Main St., where Hakey lives.
Hakey, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, was arraigned Friday morning in New Haven federal court. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Merriam called it a “serious case.”
Hakey was represented by a public defender at the arraignment, but has retained the services of Hamden-based attorney Jeffrey B. Cohen. Hakey will be held through the weekend and a bond hearing has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday at the court.
“All citizens of this earth should be free to worship without fear of violence,” U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly said in a statement, which also credited federal, state and local law enforcement in the investigation. “As Americans, we must not let fear drive us away from our values and toward hateful and divisive acts against others. The core mission of the Department of Justice involves the safety of every person and their protection against racially, religiously and ethnically motivated violence and intimidation.”
City police received reports of gunshots in the area near the mosque at approximately 2 a.m. Nov. 14, according to an affidavit. Although police searched, they could not confirm the reports. Two members of the mosque went to pray with their children Nov. 15 and discovered a hole in the wall and a bullet on the floor. The investigation showed at least four bullets hit the mosque, three of which entered the building, the affidavit stated.
The bullets, fired by a high-powered rifle, were shot from the yard of the house where Hakey resides, according to the affidavit. While investigating, officers found shell casings in the side yard of the residence that “appeared to have been from a 9mm firearm.”
A listing of weapons Hakey owns showed he has registered two Colt .233 rifles, a Federal Arms Company .308 rifle, a Remington Arms .308 rifle, and a Remington Arms .338 rifle, the affidavit continued.
All of the weapons are considered “high-powered.” Hakey’s wife also has a registered Precision Industries .308 rifle and a Beretta 9mm handgun, according to the affidavit.
Authorities seized a total of 24 firearms from Hakey’s house, many of which were in a locked safe, the affidavit says. More than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and a bulletproof vest, as well as several electronic devices were seized.
In the affidavit, investigators stated they also “observed paraphernalia associated with the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club,” which is considered an outlaw motorcycle club by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Hakey was interviewed by the FBI Nov. 19.
During the interview, Hakey admitted to drinking approximately 10 alcoholic beverages at a Wallingford bar the night of Nov. 13 between 8 p.m. and closing before driving home, the affidavit stated. He then admitted to drinking additional alcohol at home before getting a 9mm handgun and M14 rifle and discharging approximately 10 rounds from the handgun, aiming at a woodpile, according to the affidavit. Hakey told FBI agents he checked to see that the mosque was dark, which would indicate nobody was inside.
Hakey then estimates he fired 10 rounds of ammunition from the M14 rifle, “aiming at the dirt and low trees that are in the area between his house and the mosque.” He then fired five more rounds before going to sleep. Further investigation showed 18 shell casings in Hakey’s yard on the side closest to the mosque, the affidavit stated. A ballistics analysis showed the casings were the result of Hakey firing a .308 caliber rifle Nov. 14.
Hakey told investigators he “did not intend to hit the mosque and did not believe he had hit it until he saw cops there the next day,” the affidavit stated. Hakey also claims he learned about the Paris attacks after firing his guns and did not harbor any ill feelings toward Muslims.
Hakey consented to a search of his cell phone and electronic devices. A review of the records showed Hakey wanted to take an Uzi rifle and “unload on Muslims!” a day after four U.S. Marines and one Navy sailor were killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee in July, the affidavit stated. In another text message, he used expletives to describe President Barack Obama, also stating he is a Muslim.
A second interview with Hakey resulted in him admitting to learning about the Paris attacks before going to the Wallingford bar the night of the shooting at the mosque, the affidavit states. He again stated he did not intend on shooting the mosque and “would have used a rifle with a night vision scope” to do it if he had.
On Nov. 20, Merriam authorized a search warrant for Hakey’s Facebook account. Facebook provided records to authorities on Dec. 8. In two recent profile pictures included in the affidavit, Hakey is holding a rifle with a scope.
In a comment he posted to Facebook in January 2014, Hakey wrote “I hate Muslims,” according to the affidavit. In a comment in March 2014, Hakey wrote that Muslims “will strap explosives onto their children.”
“What might work is to desecrate the Muslim religion,” he continued. “Burn their local mosque to the ground, defile the land with pig blood.”
In September 2014, Hakey commented on Facebook “Muslims in this country will be in big trouble” after the next attack, the affidavit states. Later that month, he wrote that “the only solution is to wipe Islam off the face of the earth,” according to the affidavit. In another comment posted to Facebook in September 2014, he wrote that “they are gonna cross the point of no return, and all the Muslim hang outs will burn.”
On Jan. 10, three days after the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, Hakey acknowledges in a Facebook conversation with an unidentified individual that he lives next door to a mosque.
“I observe them with my binos (binoculars),” he wrote, according to the affidavit. “Way too many military aged males. Some days it’s ALL MEN!!”
“The next big attack on our country and it’s over for them!!” Hakey stated during the same Facebook conversation.
In July, Hakey wrote in a Facebook comment that “we must hunt down and kill radical Islam on our soil,” calling the president a ring leader, the affidavit states.
After the shooting in Chattanooga in July, Hakey made several derogatory comments about Muslims on Facebook. In one comment, he asked “is Muslim season open yet?” the affidavit states. “I’m in a target rich environment!”
Around 8:20 p.m. on Nov. 13, the night of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Hakey received a Facebook message informing him of the attack. In response, Hakey wrote “What is gonna be the breaking point to go ‘weapons free’ against Islam,” according to the affidavit. The shooting of the Baitul Aman Mosque is believed to occurred less than six hours later after Hakey returned from a bar in Wallingford.
“This arrest should serve as a clear message that crimes of hate against individuals of any race, creed, gender or religious background will not be tolerated,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Patricia Ferrick said in a statement. “This is the result of FBI, ATF, Connecticut State Police and the Meriden Police Department working night and day to bring some degree of comfort to a community that has been victimized by fear and hate.”
Established in 2007, Baitul Aman is one of two mosques in the city. It is affiliated with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a sect of Islam created 126 years ago.
When told of the arrest Friday morning, Mohammed Qureshi, state chapter president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said he was “happy with the support and activity of the police and FBI.”
Qureshi said he was surprised to learn that a neighbor is accused of firing the shots into the mosque.
“We probably want to do some better outreach to our neighbors,” he said. “Our neighbors have been wonderful though. We are happy to be a part of the community.”
Since the incident, the mosque has made several efforts to reach out to residents of the city. On Nov. 20 and Nov. 21, open services were held at the mosque. Several religious leaders, neighbors and local leaders attended, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.