The FBI is helping the Kent Police Department investigate the shooting of a Sikh man who claims his attacker told him to “go back to your own country.”
A statement Sunday from the FBI’s Seattle office said the bureau remains “committed to investigating crimes that are potentially hate-motivated.”
The victim of the Friday shooting was identified Sunday as Deep Rai in a tweet from India’s minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj. She also tweeted that Rai is out of danger.
“I am sorry to know about the attack on Deep Rai, a U.S. national of Indian origin,” Swaraj tweeted. She said she spoke to his father, and “He told me that his son had a bullet injury on his arm. He is out of danger and is recovering …”
Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas said detectives have been canvassing Kent’s East Hill neighborhood and talking to potential witnesses and area businesses. He declined to discuss evidence collected so far.
“We are putting all possible resources toward this investigation,” Thomas said.
The British Columbia Peoples Party sent a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, condemning the shooting and asking for “immediate actions to prevent such racial crimes in (the) State of Washington.”
Rai, 39, told police he was working on his vehicle in his driveway about 8 p.m. when a 6-foot-tall, stocky white man approached wearing a mask on the lower half of his face. Kent police said an altercation followed, with the man shooting Rai in the arm and telling him to “go back to your own country.”
Thomas said Rai has been released from the hospital.
Jaswinder Singh, of the Gurudwara Sikh Centre of Seattle, said the group has received many calls and messages of support since the attack.
“It’s kind of scary to hear about things like this, but we definitely have been getting tremendous support from the community,” he said.
Singh said he has heard from local Sikhs who say they have been harassed or cursed at in recent weeks.
The shooting follows the Feb. 22 attack on Indian computer engineers Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani in a Kansas bar that left one dead and was condemned by President Donald Trump as an act of hate about a week later.
Male observant Sikhs often cover their heads with turbans, which are considered sacred, and refrain from shaving their beards. The faith comes from South Asia’s Punjab region.
In 2012, a man shot and killed six Sikh worshippers and wounded four others at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee before killing himself.
The Sikh Coalition, a national civil rights group, asked local and federal authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.
Hira Singh, a Sikh community leader in Kent, said Sunday that the news was a shock.
“This kind of incident shakes up the whole community,” he said.
He said 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, with most in the Puget Sound region, he said.
“It was disheartening to see it happening here in my community,” Satwinder Kaur said. “Kent is a very diverse community. We haven’t seen a hate crime happening at this level.”
Kaur said she arranged for Kent’s police chief to talk to the community Saturday about their concerns on immigration and the role of local police officers. After the shooting, the meeting turned into a question-and-answer session about the crime, she said.
“When someone says ‘Get out of my country,’ it’s a hate crime, there’s no question,” Kaur said. “The community has been shaken up.”