An armed man who reportedly threatened to kill Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) was arrested outside her Seattle home Saturday on suspicion of committing a hate crime, police said.
On Saturday night, Jayapal called 911 to report that someone was outside her home using obscene language and may have fired a pellet gun, according to a probable cause statement from Seattle police obtained by King 5 News.
According to the statement, police found a 48-year-old man outside Jayapal’s home who was “standing in the middle of the street with his hands in the air” and a .40-caliber Glock 22 handgun holstered on his waist.
A neighbor told police that she heard the man shout something like “Go back to India; I’m going to kill you” and that she had seen the man drive by Jayapal’s house three times while shouting profanities, according to the statement.
The suspect was arrested shortly before midnight Saturday, police said. They said he told them that “he knew who lived at the residence and wanted to pitch a tent on their property,” the statement said.
Jayapal, 56, was born in India and moved to the United States to attend college when she was 16. She has served as a congresswoman since 2017 and was the first South Asian American woman elected to the House. Jayapal is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
In a statement, Jayapal’s office confirmed that she was present when “incidents” occurred outside her home Saturday.
“The Congresswoman and her family are safe and appreciate the many calls and good wishes she is receiving from constituents,” her office said. “She is very grateful for the swift and professional response from the Seattle Police Department, the US Capitol Police, and the FBI investigators who are working together diligently on the investigation, and ensuring that she and her family stay safe.”
Her office declined to comment further, citing an ongoing investigation.
The Associated Press reported that Seattle police were concerned about the man’s behavior and mental health and obtained a temporary extreme-risk protection order on Wednesday to require him to surrender his firearms and concealed-pistol license.
Casey McNerthney, a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, told the AP that prosecutors did not yet have evidence to prove a hate crime and that a person must be released from jail after 72 hours if criminal charges were not filed by then.
“In a time of increased political violence, security concerns against any elected official should be taken seriously, as we are doing here,” McNerthney told the AP. “The investigation is ongoing and our office is working with police investigators to make sure we understand the full extent of the suspect’s actions to build the strongest case possible.”
Representatives of the Seattle police and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment and more information Thursday.