Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas addressed the East Hill shooting of a man that is being investigated as a hate crime at a press conference Thursday, March 9, at Kent City Hall.
The victim, 39-year-old Deep Rai, who is a member of the Sikh religion, was shot in the arm in the driveway of his home March 3, near the intersection of Southeast 201st Street in the Panther Lake area of Kent. Rai worhsipped at a gurdwara in Renton.
The FBI and Crime Stoppers are offering up to a $6,000 reward for the information leading to solving the crime.
The police department released a sketch of the suspect and described him as about 6 feet, a medium build, 35-to-40 years old, wearing a dark-colored or black hoodie in addition to dark colored clothing and a mask covering the lower portion of his face.
Thomas said, “We also need the community as a partner in this investigation. We need your eyes and ears to augment our efforts to find the shooter. Please be on the lookout for the individual we described. Please watch for suspicious behavior that may indicate involvement in this incident, such as throwing away clothing we described or making erratic or unusual plans. Please listen for comments that indicate involvement in this matter or witnessed it. If someone was in the vicinity of the crime they may have information that will help us. We ask the public not to hesitate worrying a piece of information may be too small. Reviewed together every piece of information may contribute to a larger picture that could help us apprehend the shooter and help us understand the motive.”
Both the Kent Police Department officials and FBI investigators said the crime appears to fall under the federal statute of a hate crime and that is how it is being investigated.
“We are still so early on in investigation and still trying to learn the exact circumstances,” Thomas said. “He (Rai) was wearing a turban. With the dynamics of the situation that occurred we do believe the victim was targeted….”
According to a press release Saturday, the suspect allegedly told Rai, “Go back to your own country,” then shot him.
Rai is a U.S. citizen who is originally from India’s Punjab state. According to officials he is recovering from his wounds at home and assisting investigators.
Thomas said at the conference Rai was alone and told investigators the suspect approached and left on foot. Thomas said the direction he left was not known.
The chief said the incident occurred at 7:40 p.m. March 3. Rai was alone working on his car in his driveway when the suspect approached.
Thomas said the police department, “is committed to making sure our community is protected from those who wish to do harm to our members. Particularly if they may be targeted because of their race, gender, ethnic origin, nationality, sexual orientation or other protected class. For that reason we have partnered with the FBI to ensure we bring all investigative resources to bear to this case.”
Also at the news conference was FBI Special Agent Jay Tabb who said the, “FBI Seattle field office has opened a full civil rights investigation into this matter along with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. We opened this case to help Kent Police Department to figure out whether or not there was bias, specifically bias related to Federal hate crimes laws in this matter.”
Tabb said the FBI became involved Saturday morning and, “We are particularly focused on reviewing facts and evidence specifically to determine if this shooting had a factor of bias. Given that our investigation is ongoing it is still too early to make any comments or conclusions. The joint investigative team is certainly attentive to the victims report of the assailant’s comments. We continue to work with all of our community partners to solve this.”
Hira Singh Bhullar, a community leader, also spoke at the press conference.
“This kind of incident has really torn us apart as a community as a whole,” Bhullar said. “Nobody likes hate. As a community member the only thing I request from everybody else is to help us, police, FBI to find this person. Try to spread more love. That’s what we need in this community. We don’t want anymore haters. We want love. So pray for those haters to bring more love.”
Satwinder Kaur, also a community spokesperson, said at the press conference, “I would like to request the community to just watch out and be vigilant. Pay attention to your surroundings. Please do not engage in any argument with individuals. If someone makes hateful comments call the police.”
Video production by Leah Abraham