Could Sac have a hate crime problem?

[Cross-posted from]

Two elderly Sikhs shot in suburban Sacramento

Shocking news has come out of Elk Grove, California (a suburb of Sacramento), where two elderly Sikh men were shot on the street while out on an afternoon walk:

Surinder Singh's widow, Amarjit Kaur, second from left, is comforted by friends and family Saturday at her Elk Grove home. (
Surinder Singh's widow, Amarjit Kaur, second from left, is comforted by friends and family Saturday at her Elk Grove home. (

Police said Saturday that they don’t know why someone gunned down two men – frail from heart attacks and advancing years – as they slowly ambled through a quiet Elk Grove neighborhood during their daily afternoon walk.

Surinder Singh, 67, died Friday afternoon on the sidewalk along East Stockton Boulevard near Geneva Pointe Drive. Gurmej Atwal, his 78-year-old friend, was shot twice in the chest. His family said he was in critical but stable condition.

The police have not identified suspects nor a motive, but have not ruled out that this was a hate crime.

Personally, this is especially chilling news. A month ago, as my own elderly father was on his daily walk, an object was thrown from a passing car that just brushed my father’s arm. Laughing teenagers in the vehicle indicated that this was not a random act, and we can only assume that he was targeted on the basis of his appearance – he wears a turban and full beard, not unlike that of the victims of Friday’s tragic attack. The magnitude of this tragedy has hit very close to home. It is hard to not live in fear given what happened to Friday’s victims.

It is crushing to think about what the families of these elderly men must be going through.

Let us also not forget that it was also in Sacramento only several months ago that two men were charged with hate crimes after beating an older Sikh cab driver.

Valarie Kaur, film-maker and producer of the post-9/11 documentary Divided We Fall, puts Friday’s tragic shootings into the context of the hateful rhetoric that is becoming more commonplace and institutionalized in this society:

This news comes in a time when anti-Muslim rhetoric is once again reaching a fevered pitch. A few weeks ago, protesters screamed “terrorists” at Muslim children walking to a charity fundraiser. Last week, Tennessee legislators proposed a bill that would essentially criminalize Islam in the state. Last year, following the Park51 firestorm, mosques in Tennessee, Oregon, and Georgia reported arson. And next week, Peter King holds a Congressional hearing investigating the loyalty and “radicalization” of American Muslims. Our culture treats Muslims and anyone who ‘looks’ Muslim, including Sikh Americans, as perpetually foreign, automatically suspect and potentially terrorist.

We can only pray for solace for Surinder Singh’s family, that Gurmej Atwal fully recovers from his injuries, and that the perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to swift justice to the fullest extent of the law.

Pick-up truck similar to vehicle sought in deadly Elk Grove shooting on E. Stockton Blvd., March 4, 2010, around 4:30 p.m. (
Pick-up truck similar to vehicle sought in deadly Elk Grove shooting on E. Stockton Blvd., March 4, 2010, around 4:30 p.m. (

UPDATE (March 7, 2011) – Elk Grove Police have identified and are in search of a suspect vehicle: a 1999 to 2003 Ford F-150 pickup-truck. Rewards totalling $30,000 have been offered by the Sikh community, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Elk Grove Police for any information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the shootings.

10 thoughts on “Could Sac have a hate crime problem?”

  1. Interesting timing as we just received a press release from PETA about the recent shooting death of David Lynch, the leader of the neo-Nazi group American Front in Citrus Heights.

    With white supremacist groups in the news after the shooting death of David Lynch, the leader of the neo-Nazi group American Front, PETA plans to run its edgy ad showing a hooded Ku Klux Klan member attending a meeting of the American Kennel Club (AKC)—a dog registry that accepts only purebreds. The ad has been sent to all network TV stations that serve the Citrus Heights area.

    In the 30-second spot, a Klan member walks into an AKC meeting and is told that he’s in the wrong place. After he gets the meeting’s speaker to concede that the AKC believes in the “sanctity of pure bloodlines” and a “master race”—or “master pedigree”—he declares, “I think I’m gonna fit right in here,” and takes a seat. The ad concludes with the message “All dogs are created equal. Fight breedism.”

    “When it comes to contempt for ‘inferior’ mixed-breeds and a fetish for ‘pure bloodlines,’ there’s not much difference between white supremacists and the AKC,” says PETA Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “Millions of lovable mutts are dying in animal shelters every year because of the AKC’s belief in pureblood supremacy.”

    PETA condemns the AKC as irresponsible because the kennel club discriminates against mixed-breed dogs, promotes dog breeding, and encourages people to buy purebreds while animal shelters overflow with mixed-breed dogs who desperately need homes. Every year, 6 to 8 million animals are left at animal shelters, and roughly half of them must be euthanized because of a lack of good homes. The AKC and anyone who supports breeding or buying animals share responsibility for these deaths.

    Happy Monday!


  2. A little perspective here. Making the fair assumption that these Sikh gentlemen were shot based on their appearance, America in general and the Sacramento region is still the best place in the world for people of all cultures and religions to peacefully practice their religions and customs.

    Shrills like Valerie Kaur excitedly claim that “anti-Muslim rhetoric is once again reaching a fevered pitch”. While radical Islamists have killed thousands of innocent Americans, and Bush started a guns & bombs war on radical Islam which has since been greatly expanded by the Obama administration, domestic attacks on Muslims (and Sikhs) are still exceedingly rare. In a nation of 300M people, Ms. Kaur still has to work pretty hard to actually find examples of attacks, including immediately posting the Elk Grove shooting on her site before the facts are even know.

    I don’t want to discount the seriousness of the Elk Grove killing one bit, and my thoughts go out to the family of this terrible event. This nation is not perfect, but it is still the best place in the world for a Sikh man, or even a radical Islamist, to walk down the street unmolested.


  3. cogmeyer you may be right, but that’s no reason we can’t expect those among us who can’t get with the program to at least not be violent assholes about it.

    What a tragedy for the Sikh community. Thanks for posting this, SinghCity.


  4. “Racist” meaning “making judgments based on race,” or “racist” meaning “if a minority is a victim, it must have been a ‘hate’ crime”? Because 1) a week out, we still don’t have any facts indicating anything was based on victims’ race, and 2) if it had been a couple of white guys shot, I don’t see the same “oh- this must be a hate crime” outcry. Prosecute the perp for murder/attempted, and move on. Stop trying to enhance crimes with “thought motives.” Because such motivations are always unequally used by the government. And that’s racist.


  5. Racist meaning prejudging based on race. Or do you think that people no longer do that because in this one specific case, the perps haven’t yet admitted to being racists, as they are too busy evading the law for their crime?


  6. When this is shown to be, you know, an actual racist hate crime then we absolutely should have the racism conversation.
    But right now the only “evidence” of racism here is that an F-150 was seen in the vicinity. I totally agree that the Ford F-150 is pretty racist truck, but it still seems like weak evidence.

    Meanwhile the opportunists are climbing over each other like a Black Friday doorbuster sale at Walmart as they race to label this thing a hate crime. Nevermind that until more facts are known, there is certainly a chance that the attacker was a former business associate, a family member, an aspiring gang-member, an equal opportunity serial killer, or even God forbid another Sikh. Darrell Steinberg has already made the Holocaust comparison. Valarie Kaur seems to have a permanent lump in her throat, but does she feel this same pain when elderly non-Sikhs are murdered?. When does Al Sharpton’s plane arrive?

    Have we reached the point that simple murder is no longer sufficient cause for community outrage? Does an act of violence no longer matter unless it is attached to a cultural sub-group and the hint of racial hatred?


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