Members of the local Sikh community voiced their fears at a meeting a day after 64-year-old Parmjit Singh was killed Sunday night at Gretchen Talley Park.
The gathering Monday evening was arranged and hosted by Jass Sangha, owner of Nirvaana Banquet & Event Center in Northgate Village, who said she had fielded several questions from people who wanted to know what had happened at the park.
Interim Police Chief Alex Neicu and the detectives assigned to the case joined Mayor Robert Rickman, San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar and Deputy District Attorney Simran Kaur at the gathering, where they met with Singh’s family and other local Sikhs to try to alleviate some of their worries.
Neicu said he wanted to talk about the case, but more than that, he wanted to discuss steps being taken to keep the community safe.
“I hear a lot of concerns,” he said. “I also want to kill some of the rumors on social media. I heard a lot of comments myself, and I got some calls about all kinds of claims that are nowhere near the truth.”
Many people have speculated about whether the killing was a hate crime.
“There is no evidence that we’ve seen that it is. If anyone has information that it may be part of a pattern of crimes, we want to hear about that. Right now, we’re not aware of a pattern that this fits into,” Neicu said. “Of course, if we develop leads down the road that it turns out that maybe it is something else, we can deal with that.”
Rickman said he too had seen misinformation about the killing on social media and he hoped to answer some of the group’s questions.
“This type of incident here in Tracy is unacceptable, and I can tell you as the mayor, we will be using every resource available to us, not just within the city of Tracy but San Joaquin County and throughout the region and, if it needs to be, federal and state,” Rickman said.
Neicu said he understood that people wanted to know more about the crime but he couldn’t say much yet about the ongoing investigation.
“We can’t release all the information we have,” he said. “Our goal is not to just arrest somebody who is responsible for this but make sure we have a case tight enough that, when we go to court, it stands in court, and we don’t lose that case on a technicality. We want to make sure whoever gets arrested, the consequences match that.”
Although Salazar said she could not talk about any case specifically, she discussed how a hypothetical homicide case is handled.
“Motive is always the big question — why do people do this kind of thing, why do they create that kind of harm,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a crime of opportunity, sometimes it’s for financial gains, sometimes it’s for robbery, sometimes it’s hate, sometimes it’s in the commission of another felony. Sometimes people are struggling with substance abuse or mental health and it’s a random act of violence. We won’t know.”
Her voice rose as she expressed frustration with the speculation surrounding Singh’s killing on social media. Pointing to the detectives assigned to the case, she said they were the only people likely to know the killer’s motive.
“All that stuff on Facebook needs to stop, because it hurts the family, it hurts the community and it misleads the public,” Salazar said. “So stand up against those people who are putting stuff on Facebook, because they really are doing harm and they’re not helping us and they’re not helping our case.”
In days to come, police will be more visible in the neighborhood surrounding Gretchen Talley Park. One of Tracy Police Department’s street enforcement teams has been assigned to patrol the area and pay extra attention to the park and who is around it.
Someone in the audience asked why the cameras posted in the park were not recording at the time of the killing around 9 p.m. Sunday. Neicu said those cameras hadn’t worked in years, and when they did, they only sent a live feed to the police dispatch center with no way to record it.
The lack of lighting in the park and the safety risks it created were also mentioned. Rickman said the people at City Hall would discuss how to improve the lighting of all city parks.
When asked whether drug sales and drug use in the park had led to Singh’s killing, Neicu said he wanted to focus on the bigger question of how to keep the community safe moving forward.
“We’re going to discuss the situation at that park and what we can do,” Neicu said. “Obviously there’s some extra lighting we can put in there, there are cameras that could be put in there. We are committed to doing some extra patrols especially for the immediate future to make sure that area gets some special attention.”
Neicu asked for anyone who saw anything or anyone suspicious in the park or the surrounding neighborhood to come forward and talk to the police.
“Help us understand the context of how this happened,” he said.
People can call Detective Camillo Swiger, 209-831-6648; Detective Jarrod Jesser, 209-831-6640; or the police department’s general line, 209-831-6550.
Tracy Crime Stoppers also accepts tips by phone, 209-831-4847, or by text: send “TIPTPD” plus a message to 274637.