Sikh man shot in US in suspected hate crime

The victim described the shooter as a six-foot-tall white man, wearing a mask covering the lower half of his face. (Representative image) (image source: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph:( Others )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 05, 2017, 02.30 AM (IST)

A 39-year-old Sikh man was allegedly shot in Kent, in the state of Washington while he was working in his vehicle outside his residence at around 8:00 pm PST on Friday when he was approached by an unknown man, The Seattle Times reported. 

Authorities are investigating the shooting as a suspected hate crime, the newspaper reported.

Kent police have launched an investigation into the case and reached out to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, the report said.

The victim, identified as Deep Rai, was shot in the arm and alleged the suspect made statements to the effect of "go back to your own country". He described the shooter as a six-foot-tall white man, wearing a mask covering the lower half of his face.

"Some comments were made to the effect of 'Get out of our country. Go back to where you're from,' and our victim was then shot," Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas confirmed at a news conference.

He said while the Sikh man sustained "non-life-threatening injuries", they are "treating this as a very serious incident".

"We're early on in our investigation," Thomas said.

"To think that this could happen in our community was very surprising and extremely disappointing," he added.

Sikh community members stood behind Thomas as he described the shooting. 

"Yes, it is hard. It's hard to see somebody from your community being a victim of a hate crime. I mean I've been here a long time, and we haven't seen something happening at this level. So it's hard this morning. That's all I have to say," Satwinder Kaur, a leader in the local Sikh community, said.

Kent police said an argument broke out between the two men.

Jasmit Singh, a leader of the Sikh community in Renton, said he had been told the victim was released from the hospital.

He said the victim and his family are "very shaken up".

"We're all kind of at a loss in terms of what's going on right now, this is just bringing it home. The climate of hate that has been created doesn't distinguish between anyone," he said.

Singh said that men from his community have reported a rise in incidents of verbal abuse, "a kind of prejudice, a kind of xenophobia that is nothing that we've seen in the recent past".

He said the number of incidents targeting members of the Sikh religion, are reminiscent of the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks.

Sikh coalition calls for investigation into hate crime

The Sikh Coalition, along with local community leaders, has asked local, state and federal officials to investigate this shooting as an anti-Sikh hate crime as well as to improve bias prevention laws and organise 'Know Your Rights' forums to build community resilience, PTI reported.

It said shooting in Kent followed the larger national pattern of hate violence directed at minority communities across the US in the wake of the presidential election.

"Investigating this as an anti-Sikh hate crime is critical, because without our government agencies recognising hatred for what it is, we can't combat the problem," said Seattle-area Sikh community leader, Jasmit Singh.

He said the men from his community have reported a rise in incidents of verbal abuse, "a kind of prejudice, a kind of xenophobia that is nothing that we've seen in the recent past."

"While we appreciate the efforts of state and local officials to respond to attacks like this, we need our national leaders to make hate crime prevention a top priority," Sikh Coalition Interim Program Manager Rajdeep Singh said in a statement in New York.

"Tone matters in our political discourse, because this a matter of life or death for millions of Americans who are worried about losing loved ones to hate," he said.

The Kent shooting incident is the latest in a series of troubling cases where members of the Indian community have been targeted in apparent hate crimes.

On Thursday night Indian-origin businessman Harnish Patel was shot dead ten minutes after closing up his store for the evening in Lancaster County, South Carolina. Police are not yet treating this murder as a hate crime.

But it also comes close on the heels of the tragic shooting in Kansas last month of 32-year old Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was killed when 51-year old US Navy veteran Adam Purinton opened fire at him and his friend Alok Madasani before yelling "get out of my country".

(WION with inputs from agencies)