The Lancaster County, S.C., Sheriff’s Office is investigating the killing of 43-year-old Harnish Patel, who was fatally shot in front of his yard Thursday. The motive behind Patel’s killing is unclear, although tensions are high given the current political climate and other recent high-profile cases involving people of Indian descent.
“We don’t have any facts that we have uncovered yet that says he was killed for a racial reason,” Doug Barfield, an attorney for the sheriff’s office, told BuzzFeed News. “We don’t know that it’s not, we don’t know that it is.”
Patel was shot twice while returning home from the convenience store that he owned, which was about a 10-minute drive away. He was found dead in his front yard by first responders who arrived after authorities were called about gunshots and screaming shortly after 11:30 p.m.
Barfield declined to give much detail about the investigation, not confirming whether there was evidence of robbery or any other motive. Barfield also declined to reveal whether authorities had any information about the suspect, including race.
“We have information which I’m not going to say here, and we are looking at all possible motives,” Barfield said. “We have a full team of investigators working round the clock.”
As BuzzFeed notes, Patel’s killing occurred around the same time as two high-profile shootings involving people of Indian descent. About two weeks ago, Adam Purinton allegedly shot two Indian men at an Olathe, Kan., bar, killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injuring Alok Madasani. A third victim was also shot. Witnesses reportedly heard Purinton scream, “Get out of my country,” and Madasani reportedly told investigators that the suspect questioned the pair’s immigration status before the shooting.
The FBI is investigating the case as a hate crime.