Indian American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal faces racist attack

Pramila JayapalSeattle man accused of yelling “go back to India” and “I’m going to kill you” outside her home released from jail

A 48-year-old Seattle man arrested Saturday on suspicion of committing a hate crime against Indian American US House member Pramila Jayapal was released from jail Wednesday.

Seattle police released him because they could not say with certainty that he told the congresswoman to go back to India or that he threatened to kill her, Seattle Times reported citing King County prosecutors.

Read: Pramila Jayapal leads lawmakers seeking reversal of Trump-era anti-immigrant policies (April 1, 2022)

Seattle police arrested the man outside Jayapal’s house in the Arbor Heights neighborhood at 11:25 pm Saturday after she called 911 and reported an unknown person or people were in a vehicle outside, using obscene language, according to the probable cause statement released after the man’s first court appearance Monday.

India-born Jayapal, 56, the first Indian American woman elected to the US House of Representatives in 2016, told a dispatcher her husband thought someone may have fired a pellet gun, but he wasn’t sure, the statement said.

Officers found the man standing in the middle of the street with his hands in the air and a .40-caliber handgun holstered on his waist, the probable cause statement said. Police detained the man and secured the gun.

A neighbor told police she heard the man yell something to the effect of, “Go back to India. I’m going to kill you,” the statement said. The neighbor also saw and heard the man drive by Jayapal’s residence at least three times, yelling profanities, according to the statement.

A detective was assigned to conduct a follow-up investigation and met with Jayapal’s husband, who provided video clips from their home-security system, according to an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) petition.

In one clip, the last part of the word “India” can be heard, followed by an expletive-laced rant directed at Jayapal, the petition said.

In another clip, the man can be seen approaching the house while yelling profanities about being Jayapal’s neighbor, followed by the sound of metal being manipulated.

Seattle police on Wednesday obtained a temporary ERPO to require the accused to surrender his firearms and concealed pistol license, citing concerns about his escalating behavior toward Jayapal and increasing struggles with his mental health, Times reported citing court records.

Read: House panel approves Pramila Jayapal’s bill to break tech giants (June 25, 2021)

The police investigation is ongoing. Prosecutors have not declined to file a criminal case but don’t currently have evidence to prove a hate crime was committed, Casey McNerthney, a spokesperson for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office was quoted as saying.

“The recent incident outside Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Seattle home is disturbing and unacceptable. In a time of increased political violence, security concerns against any elected official should be taken seriously, as we are doing here,” McNerthney wrote in an email to Times Wednesday.

“The suspect’s alleged language and actions, coupled with his possession of a concealed weapon, deserve the full attention of the justice system. Presently, the investigation is ongoing and our office is working with police investigators to make sure we understand the full extent of the suspect’s actions to build the strongest case possible,” the email said.

“We are glad the extreme risk protection order was obtained,” a spokesperson for Jayapal told the Times in an email.

“Congresswoman Jayapal confirms that incidents occurred at her Seattle home on Saturday night when she was present,” Jayapal office said in a statement Monday. “The Congresswoman and her family are safe and appreciate the many calls and good wishes she is receiving from constituents.”

“She is very grateful for the swift and professional response from the Seattle Police Department, the US Capitol Police, and the FBI investigators who are working together diligently on the investigation, and ensuring that she and her family stay safe. Because this is an ongoing investigation, she will not be commenting further at this time.”

Neil Makhija, executive director of Indian American Impact, a leading community organization stated, “We are grateful that Representative Jayapal and her family are safe, but we are horrified that they had to endure this terrifying hate crime.

Read: Pramila Jayapal demands reversal of Trump’s ‘xenophobic’ immigration policies (December 17, 2020)

There should be no place for hate in our country, and Representative Jayapal and her family should not have to live in fear. Yet today, we see it everywhere.”

Makhija added that there have been over 11,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans last year and nearly 600 more every month. These hate crimes are rarely reported on the news – even this story about a member of Congress has barely been covered by national media.

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