A convenience store employee’s life may have been taken by a man angered that he could not buy single cigarettes.
About 11:15 Thursday night, a white male who appeared to be in his 20s went into Hatch Food & Gas on West Hatch Road At Dallas Street and wanted to buy a loose cigarette or two, store manager Gary Singh said Monday. Told the store does not sell singles – it is illegal – the man became angry, Singh said, sharing information provided by a second employee who was working that night.
When the employee who refused the sale went outside about 30 minutes later, a man was waiting for him and fatally stabbed him, Singh said, though he emphasized he could not be sure it was the same man. Surveillance images from inside and outside the store have been provided to Modesto Police Department investigators, he said.
The death of his employee, who’d been working at the store only about three weeks, was “for nothing,” Singh said. The 32-year-old man’s wife and sons, ages 7 and 9, who live in India, now are left without a husband and father, he said.
Not sure family had been notified, Singh would not provide the victim’s name. But family members on social media have identified him as Jagjeet Singh.
“To our family, our uncle was an inspiration – he worked very diligently and had a warm soul,” Navjeet Kaur wrote on the website Fundly, where a fundraising goal has been set at $20,000. “In the two years that he came to America and spent quality time with us, he touched our soul immensely. My mom would be running around, upset that the house was a mess. And our uncle would just smile and giggle saying, ‘Don’t worry sis, I will help.’ And there he would be, in the kitchen, teaching my little brother how to make tea or roti (tortillas). ... He was a cheerful and lively person and we will miss him dearly.”
According to an Indian Express article, Jagjeet Singh was staying with his sister and brother-in-law in Modesto and hailed from Punjab’s Kapurthala city.
In a Facebook post Sunday, the rights group Sikh Coalition said in part, “As we seek more information on the case, we urge the Modesto Police Department to leave no stone unturned in their investigation. That includes examining the possibility of this being a hate crime.”
The Indian Express story says the man “left the store in a hurry, mouthing racist abuses and warning Jagjeet of dire consequences,” though it does not cite the source of the information. Modesto Police Department spokeswoman said she’s been given no information indicating the killing was a hate crime.
The Hindustan Times in Kapurthala published a photograph of Singh’s family members grieving and quoted his father, Mohinder Singh, as saying, “Jagjeet was a kind-hearted and hardworking person. We will miss him. He went to the U.S. one-and-a-half years ago to support the family. We took loans from relatives to send him there.”
Police ask anyone with information about the homicide to call Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636. Tipsters can email through the Crime Stoppers website, www.stancrimetips.org, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing “Tip704” plus a message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327