A man who authorities said crashed his car into a Watson convenience store in March because he believed the owners were Muslim pleaded no contest to a hate crime in Livingston Parish, although the man claims it was an accident. 

Chad Horsley, 27, was sentenced by 21st Judicial District Judge Jeff Johnson to two years in prison, suspended for a three-year period of probation, according to court documents. 

Authorities said Horsley, of Denham Springs, told investigators his reason for causing the damage to the convenience store on Springfield Road was that "the people who operate the business were the same 'ones' who killed his fellow service members overseas."

Convenience store cashier targeted in alleged hate crime: 'We're just trying to make a living'

"Chad was under the impression they were Muslim and was upset that they were allowed to prosper in the United States of America easier than him despite his service in the military," according to an affidavit signed by a Livingston Parish Sheriff's deputy.

An employee of the Best Stop convenience store told The Advocate in March that the owners are Sikh, not Muslim. Sikhism is a religion that originated in India centuries ago and is sometimes confused with Islam, despite the two being entirely distinct.

In a phone interview Friday, Horsley said deputies put words in his mouth when they interviewed him about the crash and that he does not hate Muslims. 

"Now I'm having to deal with all this and having people think I'm some sort of hate criminal and that's the last thing I'd ever do," said Horsley, who said he dated a Muslim woman for two years.

Horsley said he pleaded no contest to hate crimes and simple criminal damage to property on Oct. 18 because he could not afford a trial attorney.

Horsley was also ordered to pay $1,500 restitution, $750 in fines and never return to a Best Stop convenience store. 

According to police reports filed in the court record, Horsley is a former reserve deputy with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office. 

The week prior to the crash, he allegedly pulled up to the same convenience store and claimed he worked with the Sheriff's Office. Police reports say he told an employee everyone needed to be out of the store at midnight because he would be back to search the building for drugs.

Horsley was also charged with impersonation of a police officer, but that charge was dismissed.

Livingston Parish Assistant District Attorney Greg Murphy prosecuted the case, according to court records. He could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.