The police in the Seattle suburb of Kent are on the lookout for a gunman who allegedly walked into the driveway of a Sikh man and shot him in the arm telling him to "go back to your own country."
According to the Seattle Times, the 39-year-old man told the Kent Police that he was working in his driveway in the East Hill neighbourhood of Kent around 8 pm on Friday (March 3) when the unidentified gunman approached him. There was an altercation between the two with the suspected gunman telling him to "go back to your own country." The gunman then shot the Sikh in his arm, the police said.
According to Deep Rai, the victim who is a US citizen, the suspected gunman was a stocky white man with a height of around six foot and with a mask on covering the lower half of his face.
The Kent Police has contacted the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies with regard to the matter. "We're early on in our investigation. We are treating this as a very serious incident," Kent Police chief Ken Thomas told the newspaper on Saturday (March 4).
According to Jasmit Singh, the leader of the Sikh community in Renton, the victim has been discharged from hospital. "He is just very shaken up, both him and his family. 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," Singh told the Seattle Times.
According to Singh, the Sikhs living in the USA's Puget Sound area have reported an increase in verbal abuse and uncomfortable encounters, "a kind of prejudice, a kind of xenophobia that is nothing that we've seen in the recent past."
Singh told the newspaper that the rise in incidents aimed at targeting members of the Sikh faith recalls the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. "But at that time, it felt like the [presidential] administration was actively working to allay those fears. Now, it's a very different dimension," Singh said.
The New York-based Sikh Coalition released a statement on Saturday asking local and federal authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime. Sikh Coalition Interim Program Manager Rajdeep Singh said: "While we appreciate the efforts of state and local officials to respond to attacks like this, we need our national leaders to make hate crime prevention a top priority. Tone matters in our political discourse, because this a matter of life or death for millions of Americans who are worried about losing loved ones to hate."