CAIR Offering $1,000 Reward in Walmart Shooting
Local Muslim leaders want to see the suspect in the Lutz shooting brought to justice.
The Wednesday morning shooting of a man outside the Lutz Walmart has caught the attention of local Muslim leaders.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida has stepped forward to offer a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for shooting a man in the face with a pellet gun.
“It’s very disturbing someone would attack someone because they perceived them to be Middle Eastern,” explained Hassan Shibly, CAIR-Florida’s Tampa executive director. “We wanted to help bring this person to justice so people don’t have to worry about getting randomly attacked.”
The shooting in question took place outside the Walmart on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard in Lutz at 3 a.m. Jan. 2. The incident, which is being classified as a hate crime by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, unfolded as a man and his girlfriend were walking through the store’s parking lot.
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The suspect began harassing the couple because he believed the man was from the Middle East, a sheriff’s office report said.
As the man and his girlfriend approached their car, the suspect came up to them and made racial slurs about the man being with a white woman, then shot the man in the face with a pellet gun in the cheek area at least twice, Pasco Sheriff's Office Spokesman Doug Tobin said.
"We are looking at it as a hate crime," Tobin said.
Sheriff Chris Nocco said the agency is dedicating all of its resources to finding the suspect.
"That will not be tolerated in Pasco County," Nocco said.
While hate crimes are not commonplace in Tampa Bay area, Shibly said they are a concern.
“We are seeing a resurgence (of anti-Muslim hate crimes),” he said, pointing out not only the Lutz Walmart case, but also an incident in New York City where a man was pushed to his death. “This is a result of the anti-Muslim industry promoting a lot of fear. These kinds of attacks send a strong message that we need to stop the hateful rhetoric.”
The suspect is described as a white male between the age of 18 and 30 years. He is about 6 feet tall and weighs approximately 180 pounds, according to the sheriff’s office. He has short blonde hair and was last seen wearing a brown jacket, blue jeans and green sandals.
Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office at 727-844-7711.