Photo courtesy of the Khalsa Gurmat Center

Photo courtesy of the Khalsa Gurmat Center

Police, FBI investigating possible hate crime after Federal Way Sikh center burglarized

The Sikh community center, school and place of worship in Federal Way was burglarized in the afternoon of Sept. 17.

Federal Way Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are investigating after a Sikh community center and place of worship was burglarized on Sept. 17.

Around 2 p.m. Sept. 17, a suspect broke into the Khalsa Gurmat Center at 2835 S. 344th St. in Federal Way, according to Cmdr. Kurt Schwan of Federal Way Police. The suspect smashed a glass door, damaged several areas and items inside the center, and stole several computers and TVs.

“The main Divaan hall (prayer area) was badly damaged, control panels were destroyed, and windows were broken,” according to a post by the Khalsa Gurmat Center. “The alarms were disabled by destroying the circuitry.”

Volunteers of the center discovered the destruction the following morning when they arrived to begin cooking and preparing for the weekend classes and services, the center said.

A male suspect was captured on video surveillance, Schwan said. Officers requested assistance in processing the scene from King County Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), who sent a technician to collect fingerprint evidence.

“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, a legal director for The Sikh Coalition, in a statement. “We are glad to hear that the Federal Way Police Department is 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 ensure this investigation keeps moving forward.”

As of Sept. 20, Federal Way Police are continuing to investigate and are collaborating with the FBI in an attempt to identify the suspect, Schwan said.

“The Federal Way Police Department is committed to completing a thorough investigation into this incident, including whether or not any biases were involved by the suspect that perpetrated this crime,” Schwan said in a statement.

Director of the Khalsa Gurmat Center, Jasmeet Singh, said the actions taken during the crime seemed “too far fetched to be random,” as the circuitry was destroyed to disable security measures and the perpetrator traveled straight to the prayer room to destroy “everything that was important to us.”

However, Singh expressed confidence and trust that the investigators would determine “what it was, or what it wasn’t.”

He said the crime has left the community and the patrons of the educational center with a sense of being violated. The facility is primarily used by students and parents for teaching science, music and the arts.

“The prayer room is supposed to feel safe,” said Singh. “It’s about bringing people together.”

In wake of such a dissapointing crime, Singh said the community support has been “heartening.” He said people have volunteered to help pick up after the incident and messaging from community leaders and neighbors has made the patrons of Khalsa Gurmat Center feel like the community is “standing in support.”

A GoFundMe account has been created to help the Khalsa Gurmat Center with repair costs and to make the facility more secure. As of Sept. 22, the fundraiser had collected $16,716 of $50,000 goal.

“It really demonstrates the character of the community.” Singh said.

Anyone with information about the incident should contact the Federal Way Police Department at 253-835-2121.

Reporter Cameron Sheppard contributed to this article.

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Photo courtesy of the Sikh Coalition

Photo courtesy of the Sikh Coalition

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