2 Sikhs shot in Sacramento area; $30,000 reward offered
A $30,000 reward has been offered in the case of two elderly men who were shot -- one fatally -- while they took an afternoon walk in the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove.
Police found Surinder Singh, 65, and Gurmej Atwal, 78, on the sidewalk about 4:30 p.m. Friday, each with multiple gunshot wounds to the upper torso. Singh was pronounced dead at the scene and Atwal remains hospitalized in critical condition.
The case has puzzled investigators and left the Northern California Sikh community reeling with fear and anger.
Elk Grove police are investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime, in part because the men wore traditional Sikh turbans. But detectives have yet to find any evidence of such a crime, a spokesman said.
“The city of Elk Grove is a marvelously diverse community and the possibility that one of our valued community groups might have been targeted because of their national origin or religion is of grave concern,” Elk Grove Police Chief Robert M. Lehner said in a statement over the weekend.
The victims were described as retired neighbors who went on afternoon walks together.
Darshan Singh Mundy, a community leader, said fear over the shooting has left some Sacramento-area Sikhs shut inside their homes and scared to emerge for traditional afternoon walks.
“The two families are shocked and this is a totally brutal killing,” he said, "for people to be walking around and someone to just be shot for no reason.”
Mundy said the men may have been targeted because they wore beards and turbans and may have been confused for Muslims.
In an unrelated incident in November, two men attacked a Sikh taxi driver in Sacramento after mistaking him for a Muslim. One of the men admitted Monday in a no-contest plea to committing a hate crime.
Elk Grove police have been interviewing possible witnesses but have not spoken to anyone who witnessed the crime. A passerby found the two men on a somewhat isolated stretch of road next to the 99 Freeway that is sheltered from nearby homes by a high sound barrier.
Adding to the complications, investigators have had great difficulty interviewing Atwal, the hospitalized victim, because he was so badly injured that he is physically unable to speak.
“We’re basically having to rely on head nods,” said Officer Christopher Trim.
Police have few leads for now, but they are looking for a tan or light brown 1999 to 2003 Ford F150 pickup truck seen driving near the crime scene immediately after the shooting.
Detectives urged anyone with more information to call the Elk Grove Police Department at (916) 714-5115.
-- Tony Barboza