Prolific offender to be released early for brutal Kirkland hate crime
Sandeep Ray could not get the image of his attacker out of his head after he suffered a sudden, violent hate crime in the parking lot of a Kirkland Safeway.
Now Ray has been informed that his assailant, who had 17 previous felony convictions over 13 years, will walk free a year earlier than expected — and Ray fears that another innocent person of color will be this criminal’s next victim.
One evening in September 2017, Ray was walking out of the Safeway on 124th Avenue Northeast with a pizza when a man who had just been thrown out of the store spotted him and began yelling racial slurs.
“I just ignored him because I was not in a mood to fight,” said Ray, an American citizen. He noted that the man “looked homeless.”
As the perpetrator, William Lee Kraft, got more aggressive, Ray asked the man to leave him alone.
“Before I could do anything, I felt a big bump on my head … he hit me with a rod, and he momentarily impaired me, and I [knelt] down,” Ray told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show.
From this point onward, the attack was recorded by a bystander. Ray shared the cell phone video with KIRO 7 TV; it can be viewed below (warning: violent content).
Kraft repeatedly kicked and punched Ray’s head, pinned him to the ground, and then tried to choke him with a t-shirt, all the while yelling racial slurs.
“I was thinking that I will die, because for five to 10 seconds, I couldn’t breathe,” Ray said. “Anything could have happened. And just immediately after that, he put seven or eight right-hand punches to my left forehead.”
At this point, the bystander filming the video intervened, and Kraft ran off with Ray’s pizza.
Although the attack was over, the scars of it remained for Ray. He suffered a concussion and described his forehead as swollen up “like a potato.” He was unable to return to work for a week and remained in such excruciating pain for weeks afterward that he even thought at times, “[Kraft] should have killed me that night, then it would be over for me.”
Kraft was convicted of second-degree assault; malicious harassment, the charge for a hate crime; and theft (of the pizza). He was sentenced this spring to five years in jail, the maximum sentence.
For the man who can still clearly remember the feeling of terror as he was being choked, the convictions were not strong enough.
“It should have been attempted murder,” Ray said.
He noted that according to police reports, Kraft had told officers upon his arrest that Ray was lucky he (Kraft) hadn’t killed him.
Ray was even more appalled to learn in a recent letter from the Department of Corrections that Kraft will likely be released in October of next year for good behavior — a year early.
“I was totally surprised, I fell from the sky … This guy shall do this again, he shall [commit] crimes again,” Ray said.
Kraft had done time for a year and a half before the conviction, so at the time of his probable release, he will have spent approximately four of the five years behind bars.
Based on Kraft’s long criminal history, which includes convictions of violent crimes, Ray does not believe the attacker will change his ways in the next 17 months. He observed during the sentencing video that Kraft “showed no remorse” and even smiled.
“I think this guy is a never-ending story,” he said.
Now, Ray worries that after Kraft’s release, he will carry out another violent hate crime against a person of color; the next time, Ray fears, it could be deadly.
“He will choose another victim, and I don’t want this to happen to someone else,” Ray said. “He’s a very dangerous criminal — he’s a danger to the community.”