Crime

Sikh man beaten, told to “go back to your country” in Keyes; hate crime investigated

Facebook post of victim’s vehicle.
Facebook post of victim’s vehicle.

A Sikh man was beaten and a racist message spray-painted onto his truck this week in Keyes in what the Stanislaus Sheriff’s Department is calling a “heinous” hate crime.

Authorities said the incident happened just before midnight last Tuesday near the intersection of Keyes and Foote roads as the man was putting up campaign signs alone along a rural stretch on the outskirts of Keyes.

A popular post on Facebook shared the image of the pickup, which was spray painted in large black letters with the words “Go back to ur country” alongside a Celtic cross. The image is a well-known white supremacist symbol, according to the Anti-Defamation League which tracks anti-Semitic and other hate crimes across the country.

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said the assault is being investigated as a hate crime.

“This is a random despicable criminal act against a member of the Sikh community,” Christianson said.

Sheriff Sgt. Tom Letras said the 50-year-old victim was placing signs for local candidates when two white men wearing black hooded sweatshirts ambushed him and beat him to the ground. He was struck multiple times as the assailants screamed, “You’re not welcome here!” and “Go back to your country!” They then spray painted his truck.

The victim required medical attention so an ambulance was called and he treated on scene for cuts and other wounds. According to the Facebook post, the man was beaten on the head with a rod. But he escaped major injury because of his turban, which is traditionally worn by Sikh men.

Letras said there was no relationship between the victims and suspects. The department is looking for help identifying the suspects or witnesses to the crime. The incident is considered an assault with a deadly weapon and hate crime. The victim’s identity is not being released at this time.

“This is a heinous crime and we are aggressively investigating it,” Letras said.

Members of the Sacramento region's Sikh community join in the Sikh Global Campaign for Identity to combat racism and hate crimes.

Hate crimes against the Sikh community have raised alarm in the Central Valley numerous times over the years. After 9/11, a spate of local crimes against Sikh people were attributed to misplaced anti-Muslim bigotry. Last year in Fresno a man was convicted of a hate crime for first beating and then running over an elderly Sikh man.

One of the highest-profile anti-Sikh hate crimes occurred in Wisconsin in 2012 when a Neo-Nazi walked into a Sikh temple with a gun and murdered six worshipers and wounded several others as they attended Sunday services.

The valley has one of the largest and oldest Sikh populations in the United States. The first Sikh temple, or gurdwara, in America opened in Stockton in 1912. There are an estimated 500,000 Sikhs in the United States and 25 million worldwide making it the fifth most popular religion. It originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan.

Earlier this spring The Sikh Coalition, a national Sikh advocacy and civil rights group, issued a statement saying they were seeing a “new wave of hate crimes” against the Sikh community. It reported that Sikhs in the U.S. are experiencing an average of one hate crime per week since the start of 2018.

The Sikh Coaltion urged members of the community and their supporters to report all hate crime incidents to law enforcement. Letras said people with information about the Keyes crime are asked to call Sheriff Det. Ken Barringer at 209-525-7038. Or people can contact Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward. Tips also can be submitted via www.stancrimetips.org or download the P3 app on your mobile device.

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Worried by recent hate crimes elsewhere, Sikh youth in the Jakara Movement held a Know Your Neighbor event at the Temple in southwest Turlock, CA. (Nan Austin/naustin@modbee.com)

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