Sacramento, Calif. (March 7, 2011) – The Sikh American community of Sacramento together with leaders of local civil rights and interfaith organizations held a press conference Monday, to announce a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooting of two elderly Sikh American men this past Friday in Elk Grove, Calif.
Surinder Singh, 67-years-old, and his friend Gurmej Atwal, 78-years-old, were shot on East Stockton Boulevard during their daily afternoon walk. A nearby driver spotted the bodies of the elderly men along the sidewalk and stopped to call the police.
Surinder Singh was found dead. Gurmej Atwal, who was shot twice in the chest, is in critical but stable condition. Both men wore dastaars (Sikh turbans) and had beards in accordance with their Sikh faith.
“These attacks on two innocent and elderly individuals are completely inexcusable,” said SALDEF Managing Director Kavneet Singh, from Oakland, Calif. “We urge the Elk Grove Police Department and the FBI to ensure a thorough investigation is conducted and that hate crime charges are fully investigated against any culprits that are found.”
The Sikh American community of Sacramento, Stockton and Yuba City, along with SALDEF, are offering a $10,000 reward for information on the crime. Additionally. the Elk Grove Police Department has issued a $1,000 reward and the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV) today offered a $5,000 reward for information related to the attacks.
Just four months ago, a Sikh cab driver was brutally assaulted in West Sacramento, CA after picking up passengers at a local restaurant. The assailants, who yelled anti-Islamic remarks as they beat the 56 year old driver, were apprehended by the police.
Ironically, it was the same day, March 7, 2011, that the two assailants involved in the brutal attack of the cab driver, Harbhajan Singh, last November, have admitted to committing the hate crime.
Pedro Ramirez will be sentenced with up to 13 years in jail, and Johnny Morales, who could serve up to one year in jail, entered into a plea agreement on Monday, which allowed them to avoid a jury trial, which was to start yesterday.
SALDEF applauds the hate crime conviction, and applauds the Yolo County District Attorney’s office for prosecution of this case to the full extent of the law.
On November 28, 2010, Mr. Singh was severely beaten and robbed by two passengers in his cab, as they yelled racial and ethnic slurs and called him Osama bin Laden.
Mr. Singh, who wears a dastaar (Sikh turban) and beard in accordance with his faith, managed to escape but sustained serious injuries, including multiple lacerations, a fracture in his face and another one on his spine. SALDEF immediately issued a letter to local authorities, the Department of Justice, the US Attorney and the FBI requesting that they initiate a hate crimes investigation into the attack.
Mr. Singh is still healing from the physical and mental injuries he sustained during the attack, but looks forward to returning to work.
“Mr. Singh is pleased that his assailants have admitted their crimes and will serve an appropriate sentence,” said Mr. Shergill. “In light of the recent shooting of two elderly Sikh men in Elk Grove, the Sikh community takes some solace in the fact that law enforcement authorities aggressively prosecuted these crimes and that the greater community has been so supportive.”
“Attacks on innocent individuals are always inexcusable, but crimes motivated by racial, ethnic or religious bias are especially heinous and have no place in our society,” said SALDEF Associate Executive Director Jasjit Singh. “We are pleased with the outcome of this case and that it was properly pursued as a hate crime and applaud the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office for this prosecution and the West Sacramento Police Department for their exemplary work in apprehending the assailants.” www.saldef.org