Police have yet to identify a suspect in the shooting that has drawn national attention and prompted a federal civil-rights investigation.
Stymied by a lack of witnesses, Kent police and the FBI are turning to the public for help as they investigate the shooting of a Sikh man who says he was wounded by a masked gunman who told him to “go back to your own country.”
Police Chief Ken Thomas released a sketch of the masked man during the news conference Thursday, although it may be difficult for anyone to recognize the alleged shooter. Most of the man’s face is covered with a mask and he is shown wearing a hood over his head.
“We need the public’s assistance to help us solve this crime,” Thomas said at a news conference at Kent City Hall on Thursday afternoon.
Police have yet to identify a motive in the Friday night shooting that has drawn national attention and prompted a federal civil-rights investigation.
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Police have set up a phone line for tips: 253-856-5808, and the FBI is offering a reward of up to $6,000 for information. In addition, CrimeStoppers is offering a reward of $1,000 and is accepting anonymous tips at 1-800-222-TIPS.
Deep Rai told police he was working on his vehicle in the driveway of a Kent home at about 8 p.m. Friday when a 6-foot-tall, stocky white man approached wearing a mask on the lower half of his face.
Kent police said an altercation followed, with the man shooting Rai in the arm and telling him to “go back to your own country.”
The gunman fled on foot. Police have not identified a suspect
Rai, 39, was released from the hospital Sunday.
With no known witnesses, police have only Rai’s account of the shooting, which happened outside a home rented by his family. Rai often used the property to work on his family’s construction trucks, said Harminder Singh, the president of Gurudwara Singh Sabha, the Renton temple where Rai worships.
Rai is a U.S. citizen who is originally from India, that country’s minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, said in a tweet. Thomas said police believe he was targeted and had been wearing a turban when the shooting occurred.
Special Agent in Charge Jay S. Tabb Jr. said the FBI is trying to determine whether the shooting was a bias or hate crime.
The shooting follows the Feb. 22 attack on two Indian computer engineers in a Kansas bar that left one dead. The alleged gunman in that shooting yelled “get out of my country” before opening fire, according to witnesses.
The Kansas shooting was condemned by President Donald Trump as an act of hate about a week later.
Hira Singh Bhullar, a Sikh community leader who lives in Kent, was at Thursday’s news conference. He works in IT for Starbucks.
He visited with Rai two days after the shooting.
“I asked him what happened. He told me he was sitting there, bent down on his knees, working on his car, putting air in the tire, I think he was,” said Bhullar. “The guy walked up to him and said bad words.”
Bhullar said that Rai told him he then stood up, and that Rai “lift hands to push him away.” That’s when the masked man pulled out a gun and shot him, Rai told Bhullar.
He said that Rai still is at home with his family. “Still in shock.”
Bhullar estimated there are 40,000 to 50,000 Sikhs in this state. He said they began migrating here in the mid-1990s.
“It’s very close to Canada, close to California, people moved for the job opportunities,” he said.
Other than isolated incidents, he said, “It’s a great environment to live. I can live here, with my beliefs.”