A 39-year-old Sikh man in the US has been shot and wounded outside his home by a partially – masked gunman who shouted “go back to your own country”, in a suspected hate crime incident that comes just days after an Indian engineer was killed in Kansas.
The Sikh man, identified as US national Deep Rai by Indian officials in New Delhi, was working on his vehicle outside his home in Kent, Washington, on Friday when he was approached by a stranger, who walked up to his driveway.
Kent police said an argument broke out between the two men, with Rai saying the suspect made statements to the effect of “go back to your own country”. The unidentified man then shot him in the arm.
The victim described the shooter as a six-foot-tall white man, wearing a mask covering the lower half of his face. Kent police are looking for the gunman.
Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas said while the Sikh man sustained “non life-threatening injuries”, they are treating this as a “very serious incident”.
Rai is able to talk, an Indian government official said. The official said the government was ready to offer all possible assistance to the wounded man.
Authorities are investigating the shooting as a suspected hate crime, according to the Seattle Times.
Consulate General of India in San Francisco is in touch with local authorities who are ascertaining the nature of the crime, the Indian official said.
Kent police have launched an investigation into the case and reached out to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
“We’re early on in our investigation,” Thomas said.
Kent Police Commander Jarod Kasner said the incident is getting attention from the Sikh community and others.
“With recent unrest and concern throughout the nation this can get people emotionally involved, especially when (the crime) is directed at a person for how they live, how they look,” Kasner said.
The incident is the latest in a series of troubling cases where members of the Indian community have been targeted in apparent hate crimes.
It comes close on the heels of the tragic hate crime shooting in Kansas last month in which 32-year-old Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed when 51-year-old US Navy veteran Adam Purinton opened fire at him and his friend Alok Madasani, yelling “get out of my country”.
Earlier this week, Indian-origin convenience store owner Harnish Patel, 43, of Lancaster in South Carolina was found dead of gunshot wounds in his yard. However, police said in Patel’s killing his Indian ethnicity does not appear to be a factor.
Jasmit Singh, a leader of the Sikh community in Renton, said he had been told that the Sikh man injured in Friday’s incident has been released from 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.