Man arrested for beating elderly man outside Fresno temple found unfit for trial

Members of the Sikh community are frustrated with the court after a man accused of beating an 82-year-old Sikh senior with a metal rod, was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.
October 21, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Members of the Sikh community are frustrated with the court after a man accused of beating an 82-year-old Sikh senior with a metal rod, was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

"We just want justice served in this particular case. I hope he's not just skirting around the system," said Paul Sihota.

The unprovoked attack happened back in May at a Sikh temple on Cherry and North in Southwest Fresno.

Thirty-year-old Gilbert Garcia is accused of approaching 82-year-old Piara Singh and beating him so badly he suffered multiple broken ribs, an injury to his jaw and more than two dozen stitches on his head.

Friends and family were shocked and upset after a third court-appointed doctor found Garcia unfit for trial. Many were hoping Garcia would be brought to justice for committing what they believe to be a blatant hate crime, after two previous doctors were split on whether he's stable enough to precede with the case.

"It's a sad day," said Sihota. "Hopefully there's another go around where it can be determined and he can be tried for the crime he did."

Sihota is among those frustrated with the Fresno County Superior Court's latest ruling.

"That's a total shock. I don't know that I trust the doctors that said that because he's 30-years-old and he was competent enough to beat up on an 80-year-old man," said Sihota.

The attack using a metal pipe left Singh with a punctured lung and broken ribs, among other injuries and the Sikh community fearful of being targeted in alleged hate crime.

"He when arrested said many bad derogatory things about Sikhs. How Sikhs are terrorists and he was going to destroy the Sikhs, going to destroy the Sikh temples and mosques and what not," said Fresno Sikh Community Activist Ike Grewal. "Sikh's wearing turbans, we are not terrorists, and we are not Taliban. We're peace-loving citizens of America."

Singh is a respected member of the Indian community. He has a strong faith in his religion and displays it nearly every day.

"He's a very nice person, he never says anything to anybody and his dedication is towards the temple," said Sikh community spokesperson Harry Gill.

It was there, investigators said Garcia assaulted him using a metal rod.

On Sunday May Fifth, he woke up at four in the morning to wash dishes. At seven he was heading out of the temple gates for his usual morning walk when investigators said Garcia approached him on a bicycle and began hitting him the pipe. Singh fell to the ground with multiple broken ribs, head wounds, lung lacerations and an injury to his jaw.

"I would imagine if the son didn't get over there right on time, this kid would've killed him," said Gill.

Police arrested Garcia soon after. While in custody, they said he admitted to hating Sikhism and told officers he had plans to blow up local temples. Singh's friends said the 82-year-old, suffered several complications from his injuries and it took him months to recover. They're now hoping Garcia will get the help he needs so he can eventually be tried.

"We don't want these types of people to be on the streets," said Gill.

In the meantime, they're inspired by Singh's devotion to the Sikh temple and his ongoing messages of peace.

"His heart is still full of gold. He still thinks mankind is good, America is good," said Gewal. "This individual just happened to be not a nice person, but otherwise he thinks highly of what America is, Americans as a whole."

They're also looking forward to increasing awareness of the Sikh community and getting to know those around them. Last year, the California state legislature designated November as "Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month."

This year, local leaders are encouraging everyone to get involved by taking part in a community event. One like the 5k run sponsored by the Sikh Women's Alliance scheduled for November 10 at Woodward Park.


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