A Michigan store clerk is recovering after being shot in the face and called a "terrorist" by an armed robber who may have perpetrated a hate crime.
An armed robber entered a party store in Grand Rapids, Michigan, early Sunday morning, according to a statement from the Grand Rapids Police Department. The robber pointed a gun at the 34-year-old clerk, who reportedly goes by "Tony," and demanded money.
After Tony handed over a bag of cash, the store manager says, the robber stuck the gun in Tony's mouth and said something to the effect of “I shot people like you overseas in the Middle East." The manager also said the robber called Tony a "terrorist" and a member of ISIS, according to WOOD-TV. Grand Rapids police Sgt. Terry Dixon confirmed the manager's statements to the station.
The clerk fought back and grabbed the gun, according to reports. The gun went off and the bullet went through Tony's cheek, police said.
"We're very proud of how [the clerk] responded in light of this incident. This could've been much, much worse given the apparent intent of the suspect," Dixon told MLive. "If the victim had not fought off the suspect, then this could've been a much more serious incident."
Dixon told WOOD-TV that police are currently treating the case as an armed robbery and a shooting. He said they will need to investigate further to determine if the incident was indeed a hate crime.
The clerk is Punjabi, not Middle Eastern, and is not Muslim, WOOD-TV reports.
“We shouldn’t be targeted for it because we have nothing to do with it. We are just trying to live our normal lives," the store manager told the TV station. "I grew up here and a lot of my Punjabi friends did. Whether we’re Indian or whether we’re (not), it doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t specifically be going for one race."
"We’re not involved in any of it and so it’s just really sad that people are thinking like that,” she added.
Since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, there have been at least 71 Islamophobic incidents in North America, several of which have been perpetrated against people of the Sikh faith or people of Indian descent who have been mistaken for Middle Eastern Muslims. All of these acts, of course, are equally inexcusable.