Police in a Seattle suburb were looking for a gunman who shot a Sikh man in the arm and told him to "go back to your own country," the Seattle Times reported.
The victim — a 39-year-old man who observes the Sikh faith — told police that he was working in his driveway about 8 p.m. Friday when the unknown man came up to him, the Times reported. Male observant Sikhs often cover their heads with turbans, which are considered sacred, and refrain from shaving their beards. The faith comes from South Asia's Punjab region.
An argument ensued, and the suspect told him to go back to his homeland, the victim said. The victim told police the man then shot him in the arm, the newspaper reported.
The victim told police that the shooter is 6-foot-tall, white and has a stocky build. The victim said the man was wearing a mask covering the lower half of his face.
Kent police told the newspaper that the agency has contacted the FBI and other law enforcement agencies about the incident.
"We're early on in our investigation," Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas said Saturday. "We are treating this as a very serious incident."
Jasmit Singh, a leader of the Sikh community in the nearby suburb of Renton, said he had been told the victim was released from the hospital, the Times reported.
"He is just very shaken up, both him and his family," Singh told the newspaper. "We're all kind of at a loss in terms of what's going on right now, this is just bringing it home. The climate of hate that has been created doesn't distinguish between anyone."
Sikhs have previously been the target of attacks in the United States. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the backlash that hit Muslims across the country expanded to include Sikhs and their faith as well, with some assuming the sight of a long beard and turbaned head can only mean one thing.