LOS ANGELES (March 1, 2016) — The Inglewood District Attorney’s Office filed a hate crime charge this afternoon against defendant K.C. Tard, who brutally attacked Balwinder Jit Singh, a turbaned Sikh L.A. County bus driver last November.
On Nov. 6, 2015, Mr. Singh was called a “terrorist“ and “suicide bomber,” and accused of hijacking the bus while being viciously assaulted. The crime left Mr. Singh in the hospital with a disfigured face and infection in his eye that has required weeks of recovery.
Local police initially failed to take into account the hateful slurs used against Mr. Singh, instead classifying the crime as a simple misdemeanor assault. In January, the Sikh Coalition’s legal team intervened and urged the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to investigate the case as a hate crime. Today, the Inglewood District Attorney’s Office filed a felony count of Battery on Transit Personnel with a Felony Hate Crime enhancement against Mr. Tard.
“I was attacked because of my Sikh religious appearance and I’m grateful that authorities re-examined my case and finally brought hate crime charges against the assailant,” said Mr. Singh. “Acknowledging hatred when it occurs is the necessary first step for combating the problem.”
In recent months, as hateful political rhetoric has ramped up, the Sikh Coalition has witnessed a dramatic increase in hate crimes and backlash directed towards the Sikh community. “The Sikh turban stands for justice and equality,” said the Sikh Coalition’s Senior Staff Attorney, Gurjot Kaur. “It should be celebrated, not feared, and we will continue to educate law enforcement agencies and Americans alike on the necessary steps required to combat the problem of hate in our country.”
The Sikh Coalition was joined in support by nine other civil rights organizations, led by the local L.A. chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, who wrote a letter in late January underscoring the importance of charging this case as a hate crime.
“The decision by the District Attorney’s Office to include a hate crimes enhancement charge in Mr. Singh’s case helps to send a strong message that targeting individuals by race or religion will not be tolerated, said Karin Wang, Vice-President of Programs and Communications for Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA.
In February, www.ReportHate.org was launched to further ensure that all cases of backlash and bias get reported by Sikhs across the United States.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) is the nation’s largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Through direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building, Advancing Justice – LA focuses on the most vulnerable members of Asian American and NHPI communities while also building a strong voice for civil rights and social justice.