Sikh community calls for hate crime investigation into Kent shooting

Police, FBI conducting manhunt

Story originally posted March 6:

The Sikh Coalition and local community leaders have asked local, state and federal officials to investigate a Kent shooting as a hate crime.

A 39-year-old Sikh man was shot in his driveway at his East Hill home on Friday night after a gunman allegedly told him to “go back to your own country.”

The victim is a U.S. citizen, originally from India’s Punjab province, according to Jasmit Singh, a Seattle-area Sikh community leader.

The Sikh man, who was identified Sunday on social media sites as Deep Rai, is out of the hospital, recovering from a non-life-threatening injury – a single gunshot wound to the arm – as law enforcement agencies continue their search for the gunman.

The shooting was reportedly around 8 p.m. The victim was in his driveway working on his vehicle when he was approached by the unknown man. An altercation ensued and the man was shot, Kent Police said.

The shooting reportedly occurred around 8 p.m.

The FBI has joined Kent Police and other local law enforcement agencies to investigate the shooting. Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas, in a Saturday morning news conference, said his force is using all resources necessary to find the shooter.

Authorities are looking for the suspect, described as a 6-foot tall white male with a mask covering the lower half of his face, stocky build and dressed in dark clothing.

“We applaud the decision by the Kent Police Department to pursue a hate crime investigation,” said Rajdeep Singh, Sikh Coalition interim program manager, “We are thankful for everything that local authorities are doing to locate the suspect and protect the Sikh community.”

The incident is disturbing to the Sikh community.

“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,” Rajdeep Singh said. “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.”

According to the coalition, the Sikh American community, which has been an integral part of the American fabric for more than 125 years, is estimated to be hundreds of times more likely to suffer hate crimes than the average American.

“Investigating this as an anti-Sikh hate crime is critical because without our government agencies recognizing hatred for what it is, we can’t combat the problem,” Jasmit Singh said.

“We are all accountable for what happened in Kent, Washington on Friday night,” Jasmit Singh said. “From the gunman’s family and friends who can help bring him to justice, to our elected officials who create public policy at home and in Washington, D.C., we all must do more to confront this growing epidemic of hate violence.”

The Sikh Coalition and local community leaders have also asked local, state and federal officials to improve bias prevention laws, and organize “Know Your Rights” forums to build community resilience and reduce the likelihood of future hate crimes.

According to the coalition, the shooting in Kent shares similarities with the deadly Feb. 22 shooting in Olathe, Kansas, and follows the larger national pattern of hate violence directed at minority communities throughout the United States in the wake of the presidential election.

“The White House needs to show leadership in preventing hate violence,” Rajdeep Singh said. “Immigrants and religious minorities are being attacked around the nation, but the Trump administration has not even created a task force to address this issue. Our national leaders must not look the other way while Americans worry about losing loved ones to hate.”

If anyone has information about the shooting, they are asked to call the Kent Police Department at 253-852-2121.

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