Pasco County deputies are searching for a suspect in what is being called a hate crime that occurred early Wednesday morning.
According to the sheriff's office, a man and his girlfriend were leaving the Walmart on Land O' Lakes Boulevard at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2, when the suspect began harassing them in the parking lot because he believed the man was from the Middle East.
As the man and his girlfriend were approaching 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.
Stay with Patch for more updates as they become available.
New Port Richey Patch editor Alex Tiegen contributed to this report.