Washington: In a suspected hate crime, an elderly Sikh man was shot dead and another seriously injured in Sacramento in the US by unidentified assailants, triggering panic in the neighbourhood having a sizeable population of the community.
Surinder Singh, 68, and Gurmej Atwal, 78, residents of Elk Grove in Sacramento, California, were shot at by unidentified miscreants on Friday evening, when the two went out for their daily evening walk, police said.
Singh, who worked as a truck driver in India and Libya before moving to the US, five years ago, died on the spot. He is originally from Pandori Ganga Singh village in Hoshiarpur District of Punjab.
Atwal, who hailed from Farallah village in Nawanshahr district of Punjab and moved to the US in 2001, continues to be in critical condition.
Police have not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime, though they said they have not found any concrete evidence as yet. Elk Grove Police has made preliminary notification to the local FBI office because bias motivated crimes are a violation of Federal as well as State Law, local police chief Robert M Lehner said, adding no arrests have been made so far.
"At present, we have no evidence to indicate there was a hate or bias motivation for this crime; however, the obvious Sikh appearance of the men, including the traditional Dastar headwear and lack of any other apparent motive, increasingly raise that possibility," Lehner said.
The attack has left the Sikh community shocked, with many alleging that it was a hate crime.
More than a dozen odd local Gurudrawas at a meeting on Sunday announced an award of $20,000 to anyone who provides a clue towards the arrest of those responsible for the incident.
They have also appealed to the Sikh community members to try and not wear traditional ethnic 'kurta' and 'payjama' while going for walks or any public appearance, said Gurjatinder Singh Randhawa, chief editor of the regional Sikh newspaper Punjab Mail USA.
Both Singh and Atwal were in their traditional Sikh dress during their evening walk when they were shot at.
Lehner said the police department would meet with representatives of the Sikh community to discuss the case and any particular needs and concerns they might have as a result of this "terrible incident".
Randhawa said this was the second such incident against the community in the area.
The first was about four months ago in which Harbhajan Singh, a cab driver, was shot dead, in West Sacramento, he said, adding that the assailant had been arrested.