Pasco County authorities are searching for a suspect involved in an assault at a Lutz Walmart this morning. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime.
A man was walking into Walmart, 1575 Land O' Lakes Blvd, about 3 a.m. Wednesday with his girlfriend, who is white.
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.
The Pasco Sheriff's Office is working with Walmart on using surveillance footage to identify the suspect. Deputies used a K-9 unit in an attempt to track the suspect, but were unable to find him.
"For our citizens out there, we want them to realize we take this very seriously and we will make sure that we use all of our resources to investigate it and possibly hunt down the suspect," Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Pasco Sheriff's Office at (800) 706-2488.