Police are searching for a gunman who approached a sikh man in his driveway in the East Hill neighborhood of Kent on Friday at round 8 p.m. The victim was working on his car when an unknown attacker approached him and started talking to him. After an altercation between the two men, the suspect reportedly told the Sikh man to return to his own country, then shot him in the arm.

Sikh man describes his assailant

According to the victim, the man who shot him was a white man, around six feet in height and with a stocky build. Reportedly the lower face of the suspect was covered with a mask.

The Washington Post quotes Police Chief Ken Thomas as saying Kent police are treating the incident as a serious matter and have approached the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies to help in the investigation.

Climate of hate affecting Sikh people

According to a report by the Seattle Times, the New York-based Sikh Coalition has asked local and federal authorities in a statement on Saturday to investigate the incident as a hate crime. The leader of a Sikh community in Renton said he believes the unnamed victim has now been released from hospital. Jasmit Singh said he and his family are pretty shaken up by the incident and the whole community is at a loss to understand what is happening right now.

Singh added that the incident brings home the fact that there is now a climate of hate. He said that in the Puget Sound area particularly Sikh men are reporting an increase in “uncomfortable encounters” and verbal abuse recently. He described it as a kind of xenophobia and prejudice and that they haven’t experienced anything quite like this in the past.

Recalling 911

According to Singh, the rise in incidents targeting Sikhs brings to mind the aftermath of the September 11 attacks back in 2001. At that time, however, Singh says the administration worked to “allay those fears,” but with the current Trump administration, it is a whole other story.

Rajdeep Singh is the interim program manager for the Sikh Coalition and has called for an investigation into the hate crime. He said they do appreciate the efforts made by local and state officials in attacks of this nature, but that Sikhs need national leaders to step up and make hate crime prevention a priority. He said it has become a life and death matter for millions of Americans worried about losing their loved ones in a hate crime.