2 charged with hate crime in attack on Richmond Sikh man

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A court in the United States of America on Thursday sentenced two people to prison on charges of committing a hate crime – they assaulted a Sikh-American in California in 2016, PTI reported.

Colton Leblanc and Chase Little, of Beaumont, Texas, on Thursday each pleaded no contest to assault with a hate crime enhancement in connection with the September 25, 2016 attack on Maan Singh Khalsa.

Maan Singh Khalsa, an observer of the Sikh faith who wears a turban, was attacked by Little and LeBlanc as he sat in his auto after he objected to the two throwing full beer cans at him the prosecutor told 12News.

They knocked off his turban and cut Khalsa’s hair with a knife. The Sikh religion considers unshorn hair sacred.

The assault occurred in Richmond, which is 18 miles (29 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

And now, almost nine months after, “there are lasting impacts on my health – I have trouble with short-term memory, I have lost a body part (little finger), I struggle with PTSD, anxiety and depression, and it is hard for me to sleep at night”, he said, bringing up an aspect of hate-crime trauma that goes mostly unreported. “I considered myself an American like everyone else”, said the victim, noting that he enjoyed time volunteering, spending time with his family, and horseback riding. The loss of his finger has affected his ability to type, lift objects and rock climb with his daughter, he said.

‘It’s hard for me to go outside now without having pepper spray with me, ‘ Khalsa said. “Now, when I interact with strangers, I am not as open as I used to be”. I am more likely to view others not as my brothers, but as possible threats to my safety’.

Since the attack, Khalsa said he has trouble sleeping and remembering protocols needed for his job, sometimes resulting in mistakes.

‘I hope that you will learn about me and my community and one day consider me your brother too, ‘ Khalsa said.

“But the recognition of the attack as a hate crime – as harm to my dignity and my entire community – is the first step in the process”, he said.

“It will take many years, maybe the rest of my life, to heal from this attack”, Khalsa said. Many Sikh men wear turbans and grow out their beards as a symbol of their commitment to their faith, and they are often mistaken to be Muslim and targeted in xenophobic attacks. Last year, two men were arrested for allegedly beating and running over a 68-year-old Sikh man with a vehicle.

Sikh Coalition staff attorney Pawanpreet Kaur responded to Thursday’s sentencing, saying: “Acknowledging that this bias-based attack is a hate crime under state law both recognizes the deep dignitary harm to Mr. Khalsa, and ensures that we, as a society, confront the problems of Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia that make the Sikh community a target for violence”. “Unfortunately, hate crimes are nothing knew to the Sikh-American community”.

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