Hate Crime? Sikh Community Asks FBI to Investigate Stabbing Death in Tracy

Mourners attend a vigil for Parmjit Singh in Tracy on Aug. 28, 2019. (Courtesy of Sikhs of Tracy)

Members of the Sikh community are asking the FBI to investigate the death of a 64-year-old man killed during a nighttime walk in Gretchen Talley Park in Tracy.

Parmjit Singh was wearing his turban when he was fatally stabbed on Sunday night.

"This is the seventh attack on an elderly, turban-wearing Sikh man since 2011 in the Central Valley and Northern California region," said Amrith Kaur, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization.

The killing came only a month after an assault on a priest at a Sikh Temple in Hughson (Stanislaus County), about a half-hour's drive from Tracy. The priest said a masked person broke two windows of his home on temple property, punched him and told him to go back to his country.

Two other incidents of violence against Sikh men took place in the Central Valley last summer.

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In August 2018, two teenagers in Manteca — including the son of the police chief — were charged with attacking, knocking to the ground, kicking and spitting on 71-year-old Sahib Singh Natt, whose turban was knocked off. Police say robbery was the motive.

In July 2018, 50-year-old Surjit Malhi was attacked in Turlock while putting up political campaign signs. He was ambushed by two men who beat him and spray-painted a neo-Nazi symbol on his truck. No arrests have been made.

"As we look to learn more, we expect that local law enforcement will continue to investigate this case thoroughly, including the possibility that bias was a motivating factor in his murder," Kaur said, referring to Parmjit Singh's death.

Basim Elkarra, executive director of CAIR-Sacramento, released a statement standing in solidarity and urging witnesses to come forward. Elkarra urged community members to report any bias incidents to law enforcement and to CAIR-Sacramento Valley at 916-441-6269 or by filing a report.

"People from all over came to show there support, from Modesto to Sacramento people showed up," Raj Singh said of the vigil on Aug. 28, 2019 (Courtesy of Sikhs of Tracy)

"We are demanding that hate crime charges be brought" when the killer is caught, said Megan Daly, spokeswoman for a global human rights advocacy group, United Sikhs.

According to a report by the California Attorney General’s Office, records show hate crimes have jumped roughly 44% from 2014 to 2017.

At a community meeting in Tracy, some elderly people questioned if it was safe to go to the park. Local law enforcement stated that a hate crime has not been ruled out, but that it cannot be confirmed.

"We will not let this one incident affect how we feel about Tracy, and Tracy is a very safe, very family-friendly, and very diverse city," said Jass Sangha, an organizer within the Sikh community at Monday’s meeting.

Police have not determined a motive for the Sunday attack but said they were looking into all possibilities. On Monday, they released video of a man who was seen running in the park area around the time of the stabbing, and asked for public help in identifying him.

However, investigators haven't determined whether the man is connected to the killing, police said. The video was taken from a nearby elementary school. Surveillance cameras at the park haven't worked for years because they were installed by a neighborhood watch group that has since disbanded, police told KXTV-TV.

Community members come together to remember Parmjit Singh at a vigil on Aug. 28, 2019 in Tracy, California (Courtesy of Sikhs of Tracy)

Singh came to the United States three years ago from India to stay with family in Tracy. He had two children and three grandchildren.

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"It's a terrible time for the family. It's a big loss for us," Singh's son-in-law, Harnek Singh Kang, told The Associated Press Wednesday.

He described Singh as a good man who was involved with the Sikh community and was well-liked among neighbors of all religions.

Singh was "one of the happiest men," he said.

Singh walked 2 miles a day and was killed during his routine nighttime stroll, his son-in-law said.

Other community members recalled Parmjit Singh fondly.

"I always see that gentleman. He's very friendly. He always waves at everybody," neighbor Marlo Soria told KXTV-TV. "It's sad. We come to this park to bring our dogs. Just to even think that something like this could happen, right here where we live, is scary."

On Thursday, Parmjit Singh's family announced that they will give $20,000 to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of a suspect.

This story includes reporting from The Associated Press.

Tracy police ask that anyone with any information contact Detective Camillo Swiger at (209) 831-6648 or Detective Jarrod Jesser at (209) 831-6640; the Police Department at (209) 831-6550; or Tracy Crime Stoppers at (209) 831-4847 to remain anonymous. Tips can also be sent by text to 274637 (CRIMES), then write “TIPTPD” plus your message.

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