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A Sikh man who says a man shot him in the arm and told him to go back to his country is recovering from his wound at home in suburban Seattle and is encouraged by an outpouring of support, community leaders said Monday. Hira Singh said he has talked to the 39-year-old Indian man and his family by telephone and they are “getting back to normal.” The victim is shaken up and concerned about the safety of his family, but “he felt really, really blessed that he has survived with very little suffering and that he’s received an enormous amount of support,” said Jasmit Singh, another community leader.
Police in the city of Kent are investigating the Friday night shooting as a hate crime and the FBI has joined the investigation. No arrests have been made so far, police Cmdr. Jarod Kasner said. Seattle FBI spokeswoman Ayn S. Dietrich said the agency, in conjunction with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, has also opened an investigation into the case to determine if there was a federal civil rights violation.
The FBI’s Seattle office said it is “committed to investigating crimes that are potentially hate-motivated.” The shooting has rattled members of the Sikh community, which numbers about 50,000 in Washington state. At the Sikh temple in nearby Renton, where the victim has worshipped for about a decade, leaders told their faithful to “keep calm and pray,” said Harminder Singh, president of Gurudwara Singh Sabha of Washington.
He said the victim, who is married and has three children, works in the construction industry and is “a nice guy.” While the shooting shocked everyone, the positive responses from the FBI, police and others have been reassuring, he said. “That sent a positive message to the whole congregation,” Harminder Singh said.
Kent police have not identified the victim or released other information about him. But India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, named him on Twitter, saying, “I am sorry to know about the attack on Deep Rai, a U.S. national of Indian origin.” Rai told police a man he didn’t know came up to him Friday night as he worked on his car in his driveway. They argued, with the suspect telling Rai to go back to his homeland, then shooting him in the arm, authorities said.
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. “All of the information that I have available at this time suggests that the information provided by the victim is credible,” Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas wrote in an email Sunday.
The 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.”
“This hateful incident echoes the disturbing pattern of anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim attacks in our state, and across the country,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said a statement Sunday night. “These acts of violence are hateful, detestable, and un-American.” Many in the Seattle-area Sikh community fear that one of their own was targeted and said they’re scared to go to the store or other public places. Some said they have noticed an uptick in name-calling and other racist incidents in recent months. Still others expressed hurt and disbelief at the lack of understanding and ignorance.
Jasmit Singh urged other Sikhs to be aware of their surroundings and “be open about having those conversations with the broader community.” He also called on those who aren’t Sikh to address such violence. “This is not a Sikh-American issue, a Muslim-American issue or a Jewish-American issue. It’s really an American issue,” he said. “What do we want America to look like and what are the values that it should reflect?”