A 39-year-old Sikh man was shot outside his home in Kent, Washington, in the US by a partially-masked gunman who reportedly shouted “go back to your own country”. The suspected hate crime comes days after an Indian engineer was killed in a similar incident in Kansas.
Deep Rai, who is a US citizen, was working on his vehicle outside his home in Kent on Friday when he was approached by a stranger, who walked up to his driveway. The Kent police said an argument broke out between the two men, with Rai saying the suspect made statements like “go back to your own country”. The unidentified man then shot him in the arm.
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Rai, who was wearing a turban at the time, 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 Rai sustained “non life-threatening injuries”, they are treating this as a “very serious incident”. Media reports said the authorities were investigating the shooting as a suspected hate crime. “To think this could happen in our community is very surprising and very disappointing,” Thomas was quoted as saying in one report.
Thomas added that the suspect and the victim did not know each other. “This is the first incident of this magnitude that I am aware of in the city of Kent.”
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted about the incident, saying, “I am sorry to know about the attack on Deep Rai, a US national of Indian-origin. I have spoken to Sardar Harpal Singh, father of the victim. He told me that his son had a bullet injury on his arm. He is out of danger and is recovering in a private hospital.”
In a separate tweet, Swaraj condoled the killing of Harnish Patel, a US national of Indian origin, in Lancaster, South Carolina, earlier last week. “Our Consul has reached Lancaster and met the family of Harnish Patel,” she said. Patel, 43, the owner of a convenience store, was found dead of gunshot wounds in the front yard of his home. Police have said that Patel’s Indian ethnicity did not appear to be a factor in his killing.
MaryKay L Carlson, Charge d’Affaires, American Embassy in New York, said she was saddened by the attack on Rai. “Wishes for quick and full recovery. As @POTUS said we condemn ‘hate and evil in all its forms’,” she tweeted.
As part of their investigation, Kent police have 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 drawing the attention of 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 attacks on members of the Indian community in apparent hate crimes. The worst was the killing of engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas by a 51-year-old US Navy veteran Adam Purinton, who yelled at him to “get out of my country”, on February 22. Kuchibhotla’s friend, who was with him at the time, was injured in the attack.
In another incident, a video showed an African-American man intimidating an Indian-American woman in a New York subway and telling her to go back to “her country”.
Hira Singh, a Sikh community leader in Kent, said the attack on Rai was shocking. “This kind of incident shakes up the whole community,” he said, adding there have been increasing complaints recently from Sikh community members who say they have been the target of foul language or other comments.
About 50,000 Sikhs live in Washington state, with most in the Puget Sound region, he said.
Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal on Sunday urged the Donald Trump administration to probe Rai’s shooting as a hate crime, and to speak out strongly against such incidents.
“I urge the Trump administration not only to investigate this shooting as a hate crime, but to take bold steps to fight hate-based violence in our communities. Enough is enough,” Jayapal, 51, the first ever Indian-American woman to be elected to the US House of Representatives, said. “People of colour are living under constant fear of violence driven by racism… Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s vilification and ‘otherising’ of immigrant communities have real consequences for Americans across this country,” she said.
With inputs from Express News Service and AP