LUTZ, Fla. - Investigators say a stranger approached a man of Middle Eastern appearance and his white girlfriend in front a Wal-Mart in Lutz just after 3:00 a.m. Wednesday.
According to the Pasco Sheriff's Office, that stranger asked the victim, "Are you from the Middle East?"
and "Are you Muslim?"
He then used racial slurs, and voiced disapproval that the two were together as he pulled out a pellet gun. He shot that gun 20 or more times, hitting the man in the face.
"He had two pellet wounds. It was kind of one of those airsoft guns shot at close range, at his cheek area," said Pasco Sheriff's spokesperson Doug Tobin.
The Sheriff's Office says the shooter fled the parking lot on foot. They tried to track him with K-9's, but had no luck. Now they hope surveillance cameras from the Wal-Mart will help identify him.
The attack is disturbing news for Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR, The Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations. "This really comes as a clear message that we need to stop the hateful rhetoric that's leading people to do very disgusting acts of violence against people they perceive to be of a different faith."
CAIR released a statement Wednesday afternoon asking the FBI get involved in this case.
They say 2012 featured some especially violent hate crimes, including the mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and just last week, the death of a man who was pushed into the path of New York City subway.
The woman charged with that murder said she did it because she hates Muslims and thought he was one.
"In Tampa Bay, it's a wonderful community. We don't see these kinds of incidents happening too much. I think nationwide, we have been seeing them happen pretty regularly," said Shibly.
The Sheriff's Office is not releasing the identity of the man who was shot. His injuries were minor and he was treated at the scene.
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