Sikh Community Center in Federal Way, Washington, Vandalized and Robbed
September 18, 2021 (Federal Way, WA) — During the afternoon of September 17, 2021, Khalsa Gurmat Center–a Sikh house of worship, school, and community center located in Federal Way, Washington–was vandalized and burglarized. Video surveillance from the building shows a suspect breaking in, ransacking the main hall and prayer area, breaking windows and electronic control panels, and stealing several computers and monitors on their way out.
Sikh community leaders discovered the damage the next morning and immediately alerted law enforcement. The Federal Way Police Department arrived at the scene promptly and began a thorough forensic investigation. According to community members who spoke with officers at the scene, the Federal Way Police Department is investigating all possible motives, including the possibility that bias could have been a motivating factor in this incident.
“We are deeply saddened that someone would harm our place of worship and a place of learning for our children,” said Dr. Jasmit Singh, a Washington Sikh community leader. “The Sikh community has been an integral part of Washington’s culture and economy for generations, and our gurdwaras are where we come together as a community. We thank local law enforcement for their prompt attention to this disturbing case–including understanding why it is so important to explore the possibility that bias might be involved.”
Khalsa Gurmat Center has retained the Sikh Coalition to provide free legal assistance and liaise with all relevant law enforcement and elected officials as the investigation moves forward. Accordingly, we are in touch with the FBI and have reached out to the Federal Way Police Department to confirm that bias is being considered one of the possible factors in this case.
“Based on video surveillance, it is clear that the suspect willfully and maliciously vandalized this place of importance to the local Sikh community,” said Amrith Kaur Aakre, Sikh Coalition Legal Director. “We are glad to hear that the Federal Way Police Department are exploring this case from every angle and we will continue communicating with Khalsa Gurmat Center leaders, local and federal law enforcement, and elected officials in order to keep this investigation moving forward.”
There are approximately 60,000 to 75,000 Sikhs and 15 gurdwaras in Washington. Per the Sikh Coalition’s monitoring of public media accounts, hate crimes reported to law enforcement, and private reporting since 2015, the Sikh Coalition estimates that Washington is the third most dangerous state in the nation for Sikhs despite the community’s presence in the area for more than 125 years. In December of 2019, a Sikh Uber driver in Bellingham was berated and strangled by a customer; the assailant was later charged with assault in the second degree and a hate crime.
The Sikh Coalition continues to combat bias, bigotry, and backlash against the Sikh community through not only pro bono legal work, but broader efforts in advocacy, education, media engagement, and building community power. Scarcely twenty years after 9/11–and the first post-9/11 hate crime, which saw a Sikh man targeted and killed in Mesa, AZ, for wearing a turban and unshorn beard–the threat of hate remains both urgent and deadly.
For photographs of the damage (courtesy of Khalsa Gurmat Center), please click here. For more information about this case, please reach out to Graham West and Rajanpreet Kaur at email@example.com; for more information about the Sikh faith, community, and traditions, please consult our free reporter’s guide.