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Hate crime suspects plead not guilty, have Sikhs in fear

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Amrik Singh Bal was the victim of the late December attack, part of which was caught on video. (KFSN)

Two suspects in an alleged Fresno hate crime are fighting the charges against them. Amrik Singh Bal was the victim of the late December attack, part of which was caught on video.

A few months ago, we saw a Fresno man sent to prison for 13 years for a hate crime against a Sikh man he'd mistaken for a Muslim. This attack was just as brutal, but there's one big difference in the evidence prosecutors can show a jury.

Disturbing video tells only part of Amrik Singh Bal's story of fear under attack. You can see the driver veer into him, knocking him unconscious for six minutes.

Investigators say Bal had just run away from a beating at the hands of Alexis Mendoza and Daniel Wilson, Jr., when Mendoza got behind the wheel and ran him down.

Parts of that December day are forever etched in Bal's memory.

"He remembers the attack," said Sikh community leader Ike Grewal of his conversations with Bal about the attack. "He remembers trying to protect himself. He told me he put up his lunchbox trying to deflect the blows of those two punching and beating him up."

Mendoza and Wilson pleaded not guilty to assault Friday and the case is charged as a hate crime.

Police say electronic evidence proves the suspects were there. Bal's memory of what they said to him may be critical in proving the hate crime element. But ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says the video might just say it all.

"It's clear and convincing beyond any reasonable doubt that this car was trying to run down that person," Capozzi said.

A few months before the attack on Bal, Gilbert Garcia was sent to prison for 13 years for a hate crime against Piara Singh, a Sikh he thought was a Muslim.

Some Sikhs believe the hate crime against Bal may also have been misdirected, especially coming on the heels of the deadly attack in San Bernardino.

"When they see somebody wearing a turban, they assume he's a radical, he's a terrorist and it's very possible that's the motive for the attack was to attack a terrorist," Grewal said.

Mendoza faces up to 13 years in prison if he's convicted. Wilson, who was not the driver, faces up to eight years.

Grewal told us some Sikhs are considering cutting their facial hair or removing their turbans for safety reasons.

And there's one more possible hate crime that's still unsolved: the New Year's Day murder of convenience store clerk Gurcharan Singh Gill. There's still a $10,000 reward in that case.

Related Topics:
hate crime investigationhate crimefresno police departmentcourt casefresnoFresno - Downtown
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