A Sikh shop owner was shot in the face in Michigan before being called a “terrorist” in what has been dubbed by the local community as a case of hate crime.
According to FOX 17, the incident took place Saturday midnight at a Bottlenecks party store in Fuller Ave NE in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when a masked figure entered the store and shoved the rifle in the manager’s mouth. The manager, who wished to remain anonymous, told reporters that the Sikh clerk of the store — identified only as Tony — fought with the suspected robber, moving the gun to his cheek just before the gunman could pull the trigger.
In the ensuing struggle, the gunman forced Tony to the backroom, away from surveillance cameras. He then asked the Sikh man to get on his knees and barraged him with verbal abuses, calling him everything from a “terrorist” to being a proponent of the Islamic fundamentalist group ISIS, according to the manager.
“I used to kill people like you in Iraq with no problem,” the gunman reportedly said to the young clerk before shooting him in the cheek.
Gunman said, "I used to kill people like you in Iraq with no problem.." Clerk fought back, moved gun so bullet went through his cheek @FOX17
— Dana Chicklas (@DanaChicklas) December 14, 2015
A surveillance video shows the Sikh clerk complying with the gunman’s wishes as he empties the cash register of the shop. When the police arrived on the scene — thanks to a quick 911 call by the injured clerk — officials found a ransacked Bottlenecks store with blood dripping down the Sikh man’s face.
Grand Rapids Police Department is investigating the armed robbery, but the suspect remains at large. Although media houses identified the incident as an instance of hate crime, Sgt. Terry Dixon said they it is too soon to label it as such.
However, the manager of the Bottlenecks party store — also a Sikh — is convinced that the clerk at his store was victim of a hate crime. Speaking to reporters, he said it could have happened to anyone with a skin tone similar to theirs.
“I don’t know why (the gunman) associated [the Sikh man] with terrorism, maybe it’s because of our skin, because of what we look like, and it could happen to anyone that looks like us or has our skin tone.”
Later, the daughter of the shop clerk, Gurleen Kaur, corroborated the manager’s suspicion and said her father was targeted because of his ethnicity.
“We’re Americans,” Kaur said. “We’re trying to live normal lives, be Americans. The incident could’ve happened to anyone that looks like us.”
This is not the first time in recent times that brown-skinned people — including Muslims and Sikhs — have had to face the brunt of hate crimes following the ghastly attacks in Paris last month. In December, Canada and some parts of the United States saw a steep rise in the number of xenophobic attacks.
And while it is still not clear if the attack on the Sikh man was preconceived as a hate crime, initial investigations and reactions to the incident have not fallen short of describing it as one.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]