Hate Crime

FBI investigating shooting of Washington state Sikh man as possible hate crime

Police say the suspect used hateful comments before fleeing the scene

 

The FBI is assisting the investigation into the shooting of a Sikh man in suburban Seattle by a man who allegedly told him to "go back to your own country."

Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas said Sunday no arrests have yet been made after 39-year-old Deep Rai was shot in the arm Friday night in Kent, but 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."

Rai told police a man he didn't know came up to him Friday night while Rai was working on his car 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.

"It is our belief and our opinion based upon the opinion of my investigators that our victim is absolutely credible and this incident did occur exactly as he described,” Chief Thomas told Q13Fox.

India's foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, said she had spoken to Rai's father, who told her Rai is out of danger and recovering in a hospital.

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.

Friday's shooting 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."

Sikhs have previously been the target of assaults in the U.S. After the Sept. 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.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.