Sikh man shot in Kent draws international condolences

KING 5's Jenna Hanchard reports.

KENT, Wash. -- The U.S. ambassador to India and the Indian foreign minister tweeted condolences Sunday to a Sikh man shot near Seattle, another in a series of troubling and sometimes deadly hate-driven attacks across the nation.

The man reportedly told police he was approached by a masked man outside his Kent home as he worked on his car in his driveway late Friday. He says they got into a brief argument before the gunman told him to "go back to your own country" and shot him in the arm.

The victim and his family attend one of the largest Sikh temple’s in the region, Guruduwara Singh Sabha of Washington. Members of the congregation who were in touch with the victim’s family said they want to remain private and asked he not be identified, but report the victim is recovering.

Some members of the congregation were feeling unsafe and uneasy following Friday’s shooting.

“It was in shock,” said Hira Singh Bhuller, who attends the temple. "I got concerns from my family back in India saying, ‘You have to be careful.’ I was like no, we live in a state where everybody is safe, but it happened to us too. Yes, it is shocking."

Hira Singh, a Sikh community leader in the city of Kent, said Sunday that there have been increasing complaints recently from Sikhs who say they have been the target of foul language or other comments. He says about 50,000 Sikhs live in Washington state. 

Meanwhile, a manhunt was underway for the shooter. The national Sikh Coalition asked authorities to investigate the case as a hate crime, and Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas said he has reached out to the FBI.

Related: Kent police investigate possible hate crime after Sikh man shot

Thomas called the man "absolutely credible" and said investigators believe the attack place "as he has described."

"I am sorry to know about the attack on (the man) a U.S. national of Indian origin," tweeted Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. She said she had spoken to Sardar Harpal Singh, Rai's father, and that Rai was hospitalized but out of danger.

Ambassador MaryKay Loss Carlson also tweeted condolences.

"Saddened by shooting in WA. Wishes for quick and full recovery. As @POTUS said we condemn "hate and evil in all its forms" Carlson said.

Male Sikhs often wear turbans and don't shave their beards. The faith originated in India's Punjab region, although more than 500,000 Sikhs now live in the United States. The man, who is from the Punjab region, is a U.S. citizen.

Sikhs have been targeted before. In 2012, six Sikhs were killed in a shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. Shooter Wade Michael Page, 40, who had neo-Nazi and white supremacist affiliations, fatally shot himself after a gunbattle with police.

"This is the first incident of this magnitude that I'm aware of in the city of Kent," Thomas said of Friday's shooting.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups have accused President Trump of fueling anger against minorities with his blistering immigration rhetoric. Trump spoke out against hate crime in his speech to Congress last week, saying the United States "stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms."

Incidents persist, however. In New York, State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said Sunday that at least 40 tombstones were toppled in a Jewish cemetery in Brooklyn over the weekend, similar to vandalism at cemeteries in Missouri, Pennsylvania and New York state in recent weeks.

"40+ stones knocked down here at Washington Cemetery - one of the largest Jewish cemeteries. Heartbreaking #Antisemitism," he tweeted.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum, said the state has posted rewards and has a special police unit working on hate crimes.

“New York’s principles are built on a rock," Cuomo said. "They will not change and the political winds will not change them."

In Missouri, a former journalist was arrested Friday, accused of issuing at least eight bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers and other Jewish locations. More than 100 such threats have been made in recent weeks.

In Kansas, the FBI says it is investigating the fatal shooting of an Indian man in a Kansas bar last month as a hate crime. Adam Purinton, 51, is charged with first-degree murder after police say he returned to Austin's Bar and Grill in Olathe after being escorted out, yelled "Get out of my country" and opened fire.

"You must live by the rules that an abuse to one, and an affront to one, is an affront to all," Cuomo said in Jerusalem, adding that "we must have zero tolerance for any abuse or discrimination on any fellow human being."

The Associated Press and KING 5 Staff contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 KING


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