KENT, Washington: The FBI will help investigate the shooting of a Sikh man who said a gunman approached him as he worked on his car in his suburban Seattle driveway and told him “go back to your own country,” authorities said Sunday.
Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas said no arrests have yet been after the victim was shot in the arm Friday night about 20 miles south of Seattle but that he did not believe anyone was in imminent danger.
“This is a top priority investigation, and we are doing everything possible to identify and arrest the suspect,” Thomas said in an email, adding that the city of about 120,000 should “be vigilant.”
It comes after an Indian man was killed and another wounded in a recent shooting at a Kansas bar that federal agencies are investigating as a hate crime after witnesses say the suspect yelled “get out of my country.”
Hira Singh, a Sikh community leader, said there have been increasing complaints recently from Sikhs near Seattle who say they have been the target of foul language or other comments.
“This kind of incident shakes up the whole community,” he said, adding that about 50,000 members of the faith live in Washington state.
India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, identified the victim on Twitter early Sunday, saying, “I am sorry to know about the attack on Deep Rai, a US national of Indian origin.”
She said she had spoken to Rai’s father, who told her Rai is out of danger and recovering in a hospital.
Rai told police a man he didn’t know came up to him Friday night and they got into an argument, with the suspect telling Rai to go back to his homeland. He described the shooter as 6 feet tall and white with a stocky build, police said. He said the man was wearing a mask covering the lower half of his face.
Sikhs have previously been the target of assaults in the US after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the backlash that hit Muslims around the country expanded to include those of the Sikh faith. Men often cover their heads with turbans, which are considered sacred, and refrain from shaving their beards.
In 2012, a man shot and killed six Sikh worshippers and wounded four others at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee before killing himself.
The Sikh Coalition, a national civil rights group, asked local and federal authorities to investigate the shooting in suburban Seattle as a hate crime.
“It was disheartening to see it happening here in my community,” Satwinder Kaur said. “Kent is a very diverse community.”
Kaur said she had arranged for Kent’s police chief to talk to the community Saturday about their concerns on immigration and the role of local police officers. After the shooting, the meeting turned into a question-and-answer session about the crime, she said.
“When someone says, ‘Get out of my country,’ it’s a hate crime, there’s no question,” Kaur said. “The community has been shaken up.”