The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) office in Tampa announced today that they're offering up to a $1,000 reward to the first person who provides police with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the suspect who shot 20 pellets at a victim he perceived to be Middle Eastern or Muslim outside a Walmart in Lutz on Wednesday. Check out the ABC 28 report:
The pair was confronted by a white male who asked if the man was from the Middle East and if he was Muslim, according to Pasco Sheriff's Office spokesman Doug Tobin. After the victim answered "no" to both questions, the suspect called the man a racial slur and made a reference to him being with a "white girl."
The suspect then pulled a BB gun from his pocket and fired at least 20 shots at the couple. The suspect was wearing a brown jacket, blue jeans, green sandals and is believed to be about 6-foot, 180 pounds with blonde hair. Detectives said he is between 18 and 30 years old.
The male victim, 24, whose identity was not released by the sheriff's office, was treated at the scene and did not need any further medical attention. The girlfriend, 25, was not injured.
In a statement, CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Hassan Shibly said, "We urge the FBI to investigate this case because it seems to fit a disturbing pattern of recent incidents targeting Muslims in Florida and nationwide."
The number of hate crimes reported in Florida in 2011, the last year such statistics are available, showed that they had dropped from 2010, but the number of physical assaults increased. That's according to the 2011 Hate Crime in Florida Report released by Attorney General Pam Bondi.
There were 139 hate crimes reported by 58 law enforcement agencies to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. The report revealed a 27 percent decline in the number of hate crimes in the state since 2007 when 193 incidents were reported as motivated by an expression of hatred towards the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation.
Though hate crimes were down 6.7 percent from 2010, there were 72 incidents involving the assault of an individual in 2011, a jump of 24 percent from 2010.