Hate-crime charge demand in assault on Sikh Colorado store owner


The Sikh Coalition has called on the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and the Lakewood County Police Department to pursue hate crime charges in an assault in Lakewood, Colorado, on a store owner in April 2020.

The Coalition, the nation’s largest Sikh civil rights organization, said Lakhwant Singh was “brutally attacked” on April 29 evening at the store he owns with his wife.

The attacker damaged numerous items, shouted profanity and repeatedly told the couple to “go back to your country,” according to the Coalition.

When the attacker finally left the store, Singh followed him outside to take a photo of his license plate so that he could report the abuse. The man then struck Singh with his vehicle, throwing him several feet across the parking lot and causing multiple injuries, the Coalition said.

The attacker later assaulted two more persons in the area, it added.

“No one deserves to be targeted because of who they are, and I hope that sharing my story sheds further light on the hatred and bigotry faced by Sikhs and others across the country,” the Coalition quoted Lakhwant Singh as saying. “Colorado is my home, and I urge the authorities in charge of my attacker’s case to demonstrate, through action, that crimes rooted in hate will not be tolerated.”

The Coalition pointed out that on April 30, 2020, Eric Breemen, who was on bond for prior offenses at the time of these crimes, was arrested for all the incidents.

“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. Breemen’s preliminary hearing date is scheduled for July 24, 2020, at which time charges will officially be brought,” the Coalition said in a release.

“Mr Singh remains in recovery after sustaining serious injuries during this attack, and was only recently transferred to a rehabilitation center,” said Amrith Kaur, Sikh Coalition legal director. “We are in communication with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and the Lakewood County Police Department, and urge them to bring forth a formal hate crime charge against the defendant given the clear influence of bias in this case, in addition to all other applicable charges.”

Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world, with approximately 500,000 adherents in the United States. Many practicing Sikhs are visually distinguishable by their articles of faith, which include the unshorn hair and turban. By the Sikh Coalition’s estimation, Sikh Americans remain hundreds of times more likely to experience bigotry, bias, and backlash than their fellow Americans.