The Jefferson County district attorney’s office in Colorado is not convinced that the attack on an elderly Sikh man in Lakewood was a hate crime, even if the man who rammed his vehicle into him told him to “go back to your country”.
Lakhwant Singh, 61, suffered a broken left arm, broken ribs, internal bleeding, a possible clavicle fracture, spinal fracture, and staples in his head because of the attack, which happened at his Two Angels Liquors at 11 pm April 29 this year.
Singh was only recently transferred to a rehabilitation facility after a month in the hospital.
“There is absolutely nothing to indicate that race played any role in this crime, so it was not a hate crime,” Pam Russell, spokesperson for the district attorney’s office, told indica. “Very often defendants and victims are different races.”
Eric Breeman, 36, has been arrested for the incident and faces charges of attempted murder, first-degree assault, leaving the scene of the accident with serious bodily injury, and violation of the bail bond conditions.
According to Russell, Breeman was on bond in another felony case.
The Sikh Coalition, the nation’s largest Sikh civil rights organization, has said that the attacker shouted profanity at Singh and his wife, Manjit Kaur, and repeatedly told the couple to “go back to your country”.
Asked if “go back to your country” was not racial, DA spokesperson Russell said: “Unfortunately, that kind of talk happens all too often, but that in itself is enough for us to be able to prove he was targeted/attacked for his race.”
“His bond was set at $50K. He is still in custody, in spite of the fact that our jail has reduced its population by 50 percent during COVID pandemic,” Russell said.
Singh is still in the medical rehabilitation center and he cannot sit, said Kaur, his wife, who believes he was a victim of mistaken identity because he wears a turban.
Kaur said they had been running the liquor shop for the past six years and the neighborhood was nice. She said Breeman first pushed over items that were on the countertop. Her husband then followed the man to the parking lot.
There was a brief altercation and the suspect got into his vehicle and backed out of the parking space. The suspect almost hit Kaur with his vehicle when reversing but she was able to get out of the way. Singh started running in an attempt to avoid being hit by the vehicle. The suspect accelerated into Singh and struck him with the front passenger side of the vehicle.
According to the police report, the suspect was arrested the same night and told the officers he was upset after he watched “tranny porn” before coming to the store.
He said because he was upset and knocked over some merchandise inside the store. He said he left the store and was followed by the shop owner who “looked like an older Arab”. He said the male was threatening him with a large rock and Eric said to the male to call the police.
Breemen denied making any threats to Singh. He said he then got into his car and slowly backed up. He then attempted to leave the parking lot when the male jumped in front of his car and he felt a bump. He acknowledged he hit the man with his car but was not sure how injured the man was.
During the interview, the suspect admitted to the officers he was drunk and knew that it was in violation of his previous bond conditions. He was also wearing an ankle monitor at the time of the incident.
According to the Sikh coalition: “Subsequent to his arrest, Breemen referred to Mr. Singh as an ‘older Arab’. Due to the significant injuries inflicted on Mr Singh and his inability to be interviewed immediately after his attack, the investigation into appropriate charges, including a hate crime charge under Colorado’s bias-motivated crime statute, is ongoing.”
The Sikh Coalition says there has been a rise in hate crimes against the community in the midst of a pandemic where Asians have seen an uptick in hate crimes and the country is recognizing the brutal deaths of black people.
“We need to make sure that these perpetrators do not go unchecked; that our elected officials and leaders acknowledge the bias motivation behind hate crimes and hold them accountable for their actions,” Amrith Kaur, legal director, Sikh Coalition, told indica.
[Photo courtesy:Jefferson County district attorney’s office]