Sikh leaders and elected officials gathered at Gretchen Talley Park on Oct. 15 to call for justice in the killing of Parmjit Singh, who was found stabbed to death in the park a little over one year ago
Harpreet Sandhu, executive director American Sikh Caucus Committee, told the group they gathered because a hate crime had been committed against Singh.
“Today we are sad, and again at the site where our brother was fallen,” Sandhu said. “We are alarmed that this case that went in front of the judge — first of all, we know that there was a culprit. He was taken into custody and produced in front of a judge — and we are alarmed that the Judge Michael Mulvihill released him on lack of evidence, lack of evidence where there was 17 different witnesses.”
Singh was killed on Aug. 25, 2019 while taking a walk through the park at night. A suspect, Anthony Kreiter-Rhoads, was taken into custody and charged with Singh’s killing.
During the preliminary hearing last month the court heard from 17 individuals, including police professionals, investigators and the suspect’s family, as well as a man who was in the park at the time, but none positively identified Kreiter-Rhoads as the person who stabbed Singh.
He was released after Mulvihill ruled at the end of a preliminary hearing on Oct. 1 that there was insufficient evidence to hold him over for a murder trial. The preliminary hearing was held over a span of three days.
The judge’s decision brought concern among the Sikh community, who felt the crime was racially motivated.
“Parmjit’s death shouldn’t come to any of us to be another number in crime. Sikhs have been victims of crimes, especially since after 9/11,” Sandhu said. “Hate crimes within the last year has gone up against Asians in the double digits. Where is the rhetoric of this hate crime coming from? We are alarmed.”
Mayor Robert Rickman told the group he had been in contact with the Tracy police chief since the suspect in the killing had been released.
“I can tell you we are in constant contact with the district attorney. We are reevaluating the evidence that we do have and of course are looking for additional evidence,” Rickman said. “One thing I can tell you that this case, this crime is not closed, it is still open. We will do everything we can with all the resources we have and working with allied agencies to make sure justice prevails. Justice for this community, justice for the Sikh community.”
Taranjit Sandhu, a member of the Sikhs of Tracy, said everyone remembered what happened in the park back then when Singh was, as he called it, “assassinated” in a hate crime and wanted additional help for the police in finding the killer.
“I’m very surprised. This is a wonderful country, the number one country in the world. If they can find Bin Laden sitting in Pakistan in Abbottabad, this country cannot find in this little city of Tracy who is the murderer? Who did this act? I’m really very sad and really very upset about what happened,” Sandhu said.
He asked for police to seek help from state and federal authorities in solving the case.
“Please go further. Go the state level, go to the federal level and find out who is the real culprit and please bring Parmjit justice,” Sandhu said.
On Oct. 7 United Sikhs released a statement asking for federal involvement in the case through the U.S. Department of Justice, saying the killing should be investigated as a hate crime.
Paul Bhatia, a director with United Sikhs and a volunteer who has delivered humanitarian aid across the world, could not explain to the group what he described as an increasing level of violence being directed toward Sikhs, even though they had done many things for communities across the country and Tracy.
“I don’t know why people are doing this to us. Sikhs have been targeted many times — Parmjit Singh was just taking a walk. It should stop. This crime should stop. We are the fiber of this society and with sorrow and anger I want to convey this message to those people who have hit against us: we are here. We are not going away. You have to change,” Bhatia said.
He echoed the calls for a continued investigation saying he had two things to say.
“One is to those people doing hate crimes: it is not going to work. You have to stop it. We are all together. We may be small in numbers, but we are strong in voice,” he said. ”The other thing I want to say is law enforcement, hey guys, police, you can do everything. Gather more evidence and let justice take place for Parmjit Singh.”
Jasmit Singh of United Sikhs renewed the call help in the investigation.
“There’s a lot of questions that still need to be answered. The investigation has not yielded diligent answers. The judge should reevaluate his decision, the DA should be stronger,” Jasmit Singh said. “We are talking with the DOJ (Department of Justice) and the DA’s office to talk how far in cast the net of the hate crime. We need to know what the motive was. People just don’t come out and butcher a man like the way uncle Parmjit Singh was butchered here.”
Jaspreet Kaur, a community organizer with the Jakara Movement from Tracy, spoke about the killing.
“It saddens me that a little over a year ago we were standing right here begging for justice again," Kaur said. “There’s a lot of mixed emotions. The Sikh community, we have done a lot for the community we are continuing to support our elected officials, our PD our DA, now were asking for them to return that favor.”
She hoped everyone could work together, and resolve this case.
“Why? I’m going to stand here and question why? I’m going to challenge everybody here. Why are we still here a year later begging for justice? That should not be the case right now,” Kaur said. “This case needs to be resolved, and we’re going to continue to pressure everybody that’s involved to resolve this for justice. We’re going to continue to fight and we’re going to continue to be here. We’re watching everything that’s happening. We’re watching very closely and hope this can be resolved sooner rather than later.”
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