The altercation on Sept. 25 began when a half-full beer can was thrown out the window of a Ford F-250 truck at a stop light near Hilltop Mall in Richmond. Five refinery workers who had been drinking alcohol were riding in the truck. (The defendants were in the Bay Area doing contract work for Chevron). The beer can struck Khalsa’s car door. Khalsa testified he opened his door, reached down and tossed the can back toward the truck's open window.
According to testimony by Dustin Albarado, who was in the back seat of the truck, Little became angry and flung himself across Albarado’s lap and began "cussing" out the window at Khalsa. Albarado testified that Khalsa was also yelling obscenities ... calling the refinery workers “stupid ass punks.” Albarado says he wrapped his arms around Little to restrain him.
The light changed and both cars moved ahead -- the incident seemingly in the rear-view mirror.
But then Little’s hat flew out the truck window, testified Albarado. Little jumped out to retrieve it, but instead of getting back in the truck, he ran toward Khalsa’s car, which had stopped at the next light. Little’s cousin -- and now co-defendant -- Leblanc jumped out and followed him.
At this point Khalsa testified he didn't see the two men approaching, but had already called 911 to report he was being harassed. He was on the phone with dispatch when Little and Leblanc began hitting him through the open window. Khalsa says they punched him 10 to 15 times with a closed fist.
It was during the beating that Khalsa says his two turbans fell off. One of the defendants pulled his bun, yanking his head down toward the window. One of the defendants began yelling, “cut his fucking hair,” Khalsa testified. He says he put his hands up, attempting to block his assailants and the 4-inch pocket knife. He sustained at least two deep gashes to his fingers.
Throughout the entire episode Khalsa says he never heard anyone yell a racial slur or make a comment about his religion or his appearance. Defense attorneys emphasized this several times -- attempting to raise doubts this was a hate crime.
O’Connell said outside court that no verbal slurs are needed to prove a hate crime. He said as soon as the defendants “grab his hair, pull it taut and use the expletive 'cut his fucking hair,' it is without question done to humiliate Mr. Khalsa based on his perceived natural origin or religion.”
But Little’s defense attorney, Julia Jayne, said there is another side to this story. Outside court, Jayne said, she aims to show that Khalsa struck Little with his car, and it was only then that the physical altercation took place.
“It’s a very different series of events if it’s in self-defense -- if Mr. Khalsa committed assault with a deadly weapon, which would be a vehicle,” said Jayne.
Following Monday’s testimony, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Danielle Douglas said she found Khalsa’s testimony to be "very credible."
She also commented that the defendants likely didn’t know Khalsa was Sikh and probably thought him to be Muslim.
The judge went on to say she had "concerns about public safety" with the defendants out on bail and proceeded to up their bail to $250,000 and remanded them both to jail.