A second Indian man was killed in a series of potentially racially motivated attacks against Indians living in the US on Thursday night.
Harnish Patel, who had lived in the US with his family for 14 years, was shot and killed outside of his home late Thursday night in Lancaster, South Carolina, according to the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office.
The sheriff’s office is still investigating potential motives for the attack, and investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the attack was racially motivated, said staff attorney for the sheriff’s office Doug Barfield. Investigators are still looking for a suspect and have asked anyone with information to share it with them.
But the FBI is currently investigating whether other attacks against Indians in the past few weeks are hate crimes, specifically the attacks against two men in Kansas and against a Sikh man in Kent, Washington, reported the Seattle Times.
These three attacks have deepened the fear among South Asian and immigrant communities that President Donald Trump’s aggressive rhetoric and executive orders encourage violence against them.
“Go back to your country”: the latest on the attacks
Last month, two Indian men were shot in a bar outside of Kansas City after the shooter reportedly yelled, “Get out of my country.” Srinivas Kuchibhotla died in the hospital soon after he was shot. His friend Alok Madasani was injured and was released from the hospital shortly after.
Madasani spoke at a vigil remembering Kuchibhotla four days later. “I wish it was a dream,” Madasani said, as reported by the Kansas City Star. “What happened that night was a senseless crime and that took away my best friend.”
The suspected shooter, Adam W. Purinton, was charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.
On Friday, a 39-year-old Sikh man was shot in Kent, Washington, while he was in his driveway working on his vehicle. Before being shot, the victim, Deep Rai, was also allegedly told to “go back to [his] country.” Rai is recovering in a Washington hospital, according to India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj.
“I am sorry to know about the attack on Deep Rai a US national of Indian origin. I have spoken to Sardar Harpal Singh father of the victim,” said Swaraj on Twitter. “He told me that his son had a bullet injury on his arm. He is out of danger and is recovering in a private hospital.”
Swaraj also tweeted her condolences to Patel’s family. “I am pained to hear about the killing of Harnish Patel a US national of Indian origin in Lancaster, South Carolina,” said Swaraj.
Some blame Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric for the attacks, but the White House says there’s no connection
Some Indian Americans have blamed Trump’s harsh tone on immigration for the attacks, and fear that Trump’s rhetoric is fueling violent attacks against immigrants. Madasani’s father even warned Indian parents not to send their children to the US with Trump as president shortly after his son was attacked in Kansas.
South Asian Americans Leading Together, a national organization advocating for South Asians, responded to the attack in Washington against Rai, specifically pointing to Trump’s rhetoric, and said the violence was “no surprise given the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim vitriol escalating across the country, most notably illustrated in President Trump’s divisive recent executive orders.”
“When our ‘so-called’ leaders attempt to govern from an angle of xenophobia, these sentiments embolden deadly violence against our communities,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of the organization, in a press release.
But the White House has rejected any link between Trump’s foreign policy and the attacks.
“Obviously, any loss of life is tragic, but I’m not going to get into, like, to suggest that there’s any correlation I think is a bit absurd. So I’m not going to go any further than that,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer in response to the Kansas shooting.
After being criticized for not commenting on the shooting in Kansas, Trump specifically mentioned Kuchibhotla’s murder nearly a week later during his first address to Congress, saying that the “shooting in Kansas City ... remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
Trump and the White House have yet to release official statements regarding the Washington and South Carolina shootings.
Even as the White House has denied a connection between the attacks and Trump’s aggressive rhetoric against immigrants, some people still believe the connection is there.
"When it happens in your own community, you realize the danger and the times we're living in," Raj Singh Ajmani told the Associated Press before attending a gathering at a Sikh temple in Kent. "Some people worry that more such violence will occur because of President Trump."