FORT PIERCE, Fl. (CBS12) — The man accused of a brazen attack outside of a local mosque is now charged with a hate crime.
The attack happened last month outside the same mosque where the Orlando gunman attended.
A witness came forward and said the suspect targeted the victim because of his Islamic faith.
Now, according to Florida law, the hate crime charge could come with a maximum life sentence.
CBS12 spoke to Abdel Abdelhameed back in July, just weeks after the attack that left him bruised and bloodied.
The State Attorney’s Office upgraded the charges against Taylor Mazzanti from aggravated battery to a hate crime.
Incident reports show a witness claims Mazzanti was yelling racial slurs and offensive comments during the beating which took place outside of the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce.
CBS12 reached out to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who represents the mosque, for reaction to the new charge.
"It will serve as a deterrent for any individual who think they can get away with committing these crimes, hate crimes against the community or thinking they will not face prosecution,” said Wilfredo Ruiz, spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The violence against Abdelhameed came at a time when many mosque members were on edge just weeks after former member Omar Mateen gunned down dozens inside an Orlando nightclub.
"The community needs these kind of assurances that the State Attorney's Office is behind protecting places of worship," Ruiz said.
According to court documents, Mazzanti claimed he thought Abdelhameed was attempting to steal a car and didn't know the building was a mosque.
CBS 12 is told the victim has recovered physically from the attack but is still afraid of retaliation.