The FBI has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting of a Sikh man who says he was wounded by a masked gunman who told him to “go back to your own country.”
Ayn Dietrich-Williams, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Seattle office, acknowledged the investigation in an email Monday.
“The FBI is working with the Kent Police Department and will collect all available facts and evidence to determine if there is a federal civil rights violation,” she said. “As this is an ongoing investigation we are not able to comment further at this time.”
The federal investigation, which will be conducted in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, is in addition to a criminal investigation being conducted by Kent police.
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Deep Rai, 39, was released from the hospital Sunday after he was treated for a gunshot wound to the arm, said Harminder Singh, the president of Gurudwara Singh Sabha, the Renton temple where Rai has worshipped for at least 10 years.
“He’s at home and wants to keep to himself,” Singh said Monday. “Fortunately the bullet did not go where it was intended.”
Singh said Rai is married and has three children and a large extended family in the area. He works in construction and plumbing.
Rai told police he was working on his vehicle in the driveway of a Kent home about 8 p.m. Friday 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.”
Police have said the case is a top priority.
Kent police Cmdr. Jarod Kasner came out of a detective meeting Monday to say that two days of detective work have not turned up a suspect or evidence to crack the case. He said the investigation is continuing and “we have not ruled out any scenario.”
Police Chief Ken Thomas said detectives have canvassed Kent’s East Hill neighborhood, where the shooting took place, and have spoken to potential witnesses and area businesses. He declined to discuss any evidence detectives collected.
Gov. Jay Inslee, in a statement late Sunday, condemned the shooting, saying “these acts of violence are hateful, detestable, and un-American.”
Rai is a U.S. citizen who is originally from India, that country’s minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, said in a tweet.
The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity,” according to the bureau’s website.
“Hate crimes are the highest priority of the FBI’s Civil Rights program, not only because of the devastating impact they have on families and communities, but also because groups that preach hatred and intolerance can plant the seed of terrorism here in our country,” the FBI says.
According to the site, the bureau “investigates hundreds of these cases every year.”
The shooting follows the Feb. 22 attack on two Indian computer engineers — Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani — in a Kansas bar that left one dead. That attack was condemned by President Donald Trump as an act of hate about a week later.
The Kansas gunman was stopped by another patron, who was seriously injured in the attack.
The house where Rai was shot is a property rented by his family, Singh said. Rai often used the property, which has a large driveway, to park and work on his family’s construction trucks.
Singh said worshippers at the temple were shaken by the shooting, but comforted by the outpouring of support from community leaders and faith groups.
“They were scared, but we had some guests. The FBI come here. We talked Sunday, the biggest day for us to get together (to worship). People are feeling peaceful. But they are concerned,” he said.