"I have never been hit as hard," the Russian Orthodox priest said Wednesday. The at-large suspect "zeroed in on my cross, because when he started coming my direction, he had this look of anger," he said.
The leader of the Vashon monks said the man who struck him first asked, "How's Trump?" When Abbot Tryphon answered, "I have no idea," that's when the man struck him, he said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the King County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance video recorded at the gas station, hoping that someone will help identify the man.
In the video, it is difficult to see what happened on the other side of the priest’s van. However, multiple people witnessed the assault and called 911, according to Sgt. Ryan Abbott.
“You can see him swing and the priest went down to the ground,” Abbott said. “He was wearing all of his priest gear, including a cross.”
One day later, Abbot Tryphon still has ringing in his ears and some hearing loss. He believes that for some reason, the cross on his chest angered the man.
“When the man saw the cross, he went insane. ... He got this insane look and that’s when he punched me," he said.
When asked by KIRO-TV whether religion might have been a motive, Abbot Tryphon said, "I think it was the whole attire."
He continued: "I think he saw me as a conservative Christian, which I am, and I think he, for whatever reason, whether it’s political or psychological in nature, the man reacted.”
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Abbot Tryphon added, “I’m not a political person. People don’t know my political persuasion or how I vote.”
If identified, the suspect could be charged with felony assault.
The priest told KIRO-TV that he would like to see the man arrested, but for a different reason than facing justice.
“I want to go to the jail and I want to sit in the cell with him, alone, and I want to tell him that I forgive him, that I love him and that God loves him," he said. "That’s what I want to do.”
If you recognize the suspect, contact the King County Sheriff’s Office.