Sep 25, 2016
Maan Singh Khalsa 41, was stopped at a red light in Richmond, Calif., when, authorities say, a group of white men in a pickup truck began to attack him, completely unprovoked.
One of the men threw a beer can at Khalsa’s car while cursing and yelling at him. At the next red light, Khalsa’s head was pulled out of the window of his car, his turban was forcibly removed and his long hair was cut off, authorities say.
“The attackers caused physical injuries and deep harm when they targeted my Sikh faith,” Khalsa said in a statement. “I urge a thorough investigation so we can address the tide of violence and bigotry in this country.”
The attack happened about 9 p.m. on Sept. 25, when Khalsa was driving home from work. A white Ford F-150 truck, with about five to six men, who yelled at cursed at Khalsa, pulled up next to him at an intersection in Richmond, about 20 miles outside of San Francisco.
Khalsa rolled down his window to question the man who threw the beer can at him, according to the letter. As one of them got out of the truck and walked toward Khalsa’s car, the light turned green and Khalsa drove away.
Khalsa, “frightened and fearful for his safety,” called 911 and told the operator that a group of men was trying to attack him, the letter says.
At the next stoplight, three men got out of the truck and attacked Khalsa through his open window. They punched his face repeatedly and removed his turban, according to the letter. One of the men grabbed a handful of Khalsa’s hair and cut it off with a knife.
“Cut his f—— hair,” one of the alleged attackers shouted, according to the Sikh Coalition.
Khalsa, who remained on the phone with the 911 operator during the attack, drove away after the light turned green and waited for police at a nearby gas station. The attack left Khalsa with a swollen black eye, dental damage that will cost more than $2,000 and an infected finger that could be amputated.
Two of the three men who got out of the truck — Chase Little, 31, of Beaumont, Tex., and Dustin Albarado, 25, of Ponchatoula, La. — were arrested shortly after on suspicion of felony assault, according to the East Bay Times.
Simon O’Connell, a Contra Costa county prosecutor, told the East Bay Times that he is reviewing the incident and is considering hate-crime charges. In California, injuring, intimidating and threatening people because of their nationality, ethnicity or religion is considered a hate crime, a felony punishable by up to three years in person. An additional four years could be added if the crime was committed with another person.
The attack left Khalsa with not only physical injuries, but also “deep humiliation,” according to the letter from the Sikh Coalition.
“When a Sikh ties a turban, the turban ceases to be just a piece of cloth and becomes one and the same with the Sikh’s head. It is a religious commitment without which the believer ceases to be Sikh,” according to the Sikh Coalition.
Forcibly removing a Sikh man’s turban or cutting his hair “is perceived as the most humiliating and hurtful physical injury that can be inflicted upon a Sikh,” the organization said in the letter, which was written by Khalsa’s attorneys.
Sikh Americans have been victims of hundreds of hate crimes, and racial and religious profiling over the past 15 years since the 9/11 attacks.