Sikh man beaten with steel pipe in Fresno hate crime

May 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fresno police say they're disturbed by the brutal attack on an 81-year-old Sikh man. They upgraded the charges against 29-year-old Gilbert Garcia. He now faces attempted murder and will likely be charged with hate crime and elder abuse.

The 81-year-old victim is expected to make a full recovery, but does have a punctured lung, a fractured jaw and staples in his head.

His nephew Paul Sihota said, "When it's time to get together we find each other."

Sihota says his family is honored by the response from his community, and honored by the hundreds who packed the Southwest Fresno temple.

Community members took the podium, held a moment of silence and spoke about "understanding the problem" and told the audience, "If we do not take strong step it will happen again."

The community certainly has the support from both local and federal authorities who are aggressively investigating the brutal beating of Piara Singh.

Singh was doing what he does every Sunday, volunteering at his local temple. That's when police say, out of nowhere, Gilbert Garcia attacked him with a steel pipe.

Chief Jerry Dyer told a temple full of people that the crime has led him to one conclusion.

"Mr. Singh was targeted because of who he was, what he was wearing, his ethnicity, his religion."

Dyer called it an isolated incident, saying Garcia does not have a history of hate crimes and that it's not related to other attacks on members of the Sikh community.

Chief Dyer added, "What we don't want is for people to become fearful or paranoid, if we do, they win, but we do need to be aware of the individuals trying to harm you folks."

Sharnjit Purewal, Associate Secretary of the Sikh Council of Central California said, "Generally we feel like we're accepted, when something like this happens, it's shocking and very hurtful."

The Council says it's next stop is action, and education.

"Getting to know your neighbor is not a bad idea," said Paul Sihota. "Just because he wears a turban or some other different dress doesn't make him a terrorist."

Members of the Sikh community are holding another town hall meeting this weekend to come up with ideas about how to raise awareness about who they are and what they represent. It's slated for Saturday, May 11th, at 5pm at the temple on South Cherry Street in Fresno.


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