Washington Police Investigate Sikh Man’s Shooting by a White Gunman

By Sameer Rao Mar 06, 2017

Police in a Seattle-area city may be investigating the Friday evening (March 3) shooting of a Sikh man by a White man as a possible hate crime. 

Local TV news channels KIRO 7 and KING 5 reported that the Kent Police Department is looking into the non-lethal attack as a potential hate crime. The Seattle Times added that the department is working with the FBI to find the still-at-large gunman. "We are treating this as a very serious incident," said Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas at a press conference Saturday. (Colorlines requested confirmation of a hate-crime investigation from a Kent police spokesperson but did not receive it.)

Anonymously-cited police told The Seattle Times that a White man approached the victim, identified by KIRO 7 and an Indian government official as Deep Rai, in his driveway Friday evening. Their conversation escalated, with the alleged assailant saying something to the effect of, "Go back to your own country," before shooting him in the arm. Jasmit Singh, a regional Sikh community leader, told The Times that Rai had since been released from the hospital. "We’re all kind of at a loss in terms of what’s going on right now, this is just bringing it home," he said. "The climate of hate that has been created doesn’t distinguish between anyone."

The Indian minister of the exterior, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, said she spoke to Rai’s father and that the shooting victim was a U.S. national originally from India. 

The Sikh Coalition, a New York-based advocacy organization, applauded the alleged hate crime investigation and demanded national action in a statement yesterday. "The White House needs to show leadership in preventing hate violence," said Rajdeep Singh, the Coalition’s interim managing director of programs. "Immigrants and religious minorities are being attacked around the nation, but the Trump administration has not even created a task force to address this issue. Our national leaders must not look the other way while Americans worry about losing loved ones to hate."

Both the Coalition and Singh’s statements linked Rai’s attack to a broader climate of hate violence against people of color following President Donald Trump‘s ascendance. The FBI and Southern Poverty Law Center both reported a rise in hate crimes following his election. Another Indian immigrant, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was killed in Kansas last month by a White man who allegedly made xenophobic comments before shooting him and an Indian colleague, Alok Madasani. USA Today reported that the alleged shooter, Adam Purinton, faces hate-crime charges as well as murder ones.