An unknown assailant allegedly walked onto the driveway of a sikh’s home in Washington on Friday, began making racially charged statements such as “Go back to your own country,” and then shot the man in the arm, according to the Seattle Times.
“The victim, a 39-year-old Sikh man, was working on his vehicle in his driveway in Kent’s East Hill neighborhood about 8 p.m. Friday when he was approached by an unknown man,” the Timesreports, citing local police sources. “An altercation followed, with the victim saying the suspect made statements to the effect of ‘Go back to your own country.’ The victim was shot in the arm.”
The victim, who was not identified by name in the Times article, described the perpetrator as “a 6-foot-tall white man with a stocky build” who wore a mask to conceal the lower half of his face.
“We’re early on in our investigation,” Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas said during a Saturday morning press conference. “We are treating this as a very serious incident.”
Kent police added that they are working with the FBI and “other law-enforcement agencies.”
The Sikh Coalition, a civil rights group based in New York, urged local and federal authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime, according to a report from the New York Times.
Sikhism is a completely distinct from Islam, but adherents of the two religions are often mistaken for one another by those who are unfamiliar with them. Sikh men traditionally keep beards, as Muslim men in some sects do, and wear turbans or headwraps somewhat similar to those commonly worn by Muslim men in some countries, such as Afghanistan.
“Sikhs have been killed and injured in a slew of hate crimes by Islamophobic bigots who believe they are attacking Muslims,” Alternet recently reported. “The U.S. has seen a string of such attacks in recent years.”
The victim in Friday’s shooting has reportedly been released from the hospital and is recovering from his wounds.
“He is just very shaken up, both him and his family,” Jasmit Singh, a member of Washington’s sikh community said, according to the Times. “We’re all kind of at a loss in terms of what’s going on right now, this is just bringing it home. The climate of hate that has been created doesn’t distinguish between anyone.”
Sing said Washington’s sikhs are facing an uptick in racist and xenophobic assaults and harassment, particularly in the Puget Sound area.
“[It’s] a kind of prejudice, a kind of xenophobia that is nothing that we’ve seen in the recent past,” Sing said.
The shooting happened just days after a man shot two Indian engineers in a restaurant in Missouri because he believed they were “Middle Eastern.” One of the Indian men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, died from his injuries. The other survived and is recovering, as is a bystander who was shot when he intervened to subdue the gunman. The gunman in that shooting, Adam Purinton, allegedly yelled “Get out of my country!” before opening fire on the two Indian men.
“Srini was the kindest person you would meet, full of love, care and compassion for everyone,” a GoFundMe page set up to help support the family of the murder victim reads.
“He never uttered a word of hatred, a simple gossip, or a careless comment. He was brilliant, well-mannered and simply an outstanding human being. His wife, Sunayana, and his family are now faced with incredible grief and a multitude of expenses.”
The GoFundMe page raised nearly $700,000, well beyond its goal of $150,000, and is no longer accepting donations. Over 18,000 people contributed to the fund in just 10 days.
[Featured Image by Larry W. Smith/Getty Images]