Hate crime charge filed in Lakewood attack

Eric Breemen has been charged with a class five felony bias-motivated criminal charge

Joseph Rios
jrios@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/28/20

As an investigation into an alleged assault on Lakhwant Singh continues, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office has filed a class five felony bias-motivated crime charge against Eric …

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Hate crime charge filed in Lakewood attack

Eric Breemen has been charged with a class five felony bias-motivated criminal charge

Posted

As an investigation into an alleged assault on Lakhwant Singh continues, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office has filed a class five felony bias-motivated crime charge against Eric Breemen — a 36-year-old Denver resident who is accused of hitting Singh with his car in April.

On April 29, Breemen allegedly ran over Singh, owner of Two Angels Liquor Store in Lakewood, at the store at 2589 S. Lewis Way, according to an affidavit and interviews with Singh’s family.

The Sikh Coalition, which works to protect the constitutional right to practice faith, launched a public campaign in June that called on the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to charge Breemen with hate crime charges. The group told Colorado Community Media in June that before Singh was attacked, Breemen told Singh and his wife that they don’t belong in the country and accused him of being from the Middle East. The affidavit from the incident reads that Breemen said Singh “looked like an older Arab.”

Singh’s son, Onkar Singh, said he was told that when the alleged incident occurred, a man walked inside the liquor store, cursed loudly, and then went to the counter of the liquor store and started breaking everything he saw.

The Sikh Coalition said Singh’s wife spoke to Singh in Punjabi, his native language, when the man was at the store’s counter. The man then told the couple they don’t belong in the country, according to Singh and his wife.

After the confrontation in the store, Singh followed the man to his vehicle to take a photo of his license plate to report him to the police, Onkar told Colorado Community Media. The man then drove his vehicle into Singh and ran him over, Onkar said. He said he watched a video of the alleged incident.

In a release, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, said its investigators, working in conjunction with the FBI, were able to interview Singh after he was released from the hospital. Singh was in the hospital for 65 days after the incident as he suffered from a broken left arm, broken ribs, internal bleeding, a possible clavicle fracture and a spinal fracture.

Pam Russell, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, said investigators learned new information after having the opportunity to speak to Singh — leading to the addition of the class five felony bias-motivated crime charge.

“This is a very serious case and another example of the challenges we face in the criminal justice system during this public health emergency. We would have preferred to have had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Singh personally closer to the time of his assault as we made decisions in this case,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Pete Weir in a statement. “However, the severity of Mr. Singh’s injuries and health concerns related to the pandemic only recently permitted a thorough, in-person, interview with Mr. Singh by law enforcement. I recognize the intense interest in this case in the Sikh community and the associated public outcry from members of the Sikh community and their supporters, but all decisions regarding the bringing of criminal charges are predicated upon the facts and the law.”

The Sikh Coalition announced in June that 29 civil rights organizations, interfaith groups, gurdwaras and other institutions signed a letter demanding for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to investigate Singh’s case as a hate crime. Amrith Kaur, legal director for the Sikh Coalition, said the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office will have more interactions with Singh and the witnesses involved in the case. She said she is optimistic that whatever happens next in the case will help Singh try to recover and move on from the incident.

Breemen, who was on bond in another felony case at the time of the incident, was originally charged with six felonies, including attempted murder, first-degree assault for extreme indifference, first-degree assault for causing serious bodily injury, leaving a scene involving serious bodily injury, vehicular assault and violating bail bond conditions. He appeared in court on July 24 for a preliminary hearing where the court ordered a competency evaluation to be administered. His next court date will be a review of the findings from the competency evaluation on Oct. 26.  

“I’m sure there are people who see (Breemen) was charged with attempted murder and other serious charges. But I think for people that aren’t targets of hate and bias and bigotry, sometimes it’s hard to recognize the fact that while the crimes of violence happened, and they’re terrible and tragic — the underline offense for someone like (Singh) is bias,” said Kaur.

Singh practices Sikhism, described by CNN as a monotheistic faith that believes in equality and service to others. The Sikh Coalition said there are more than 25 million Sikhs worldwide, most of whom live in Punjab, India.

“I am so very grateful to everyone —Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike — from Lakewood, elsewhere in Colorado, across the country, and beyond who have stood with me and my family in this incredibly difficult time. I appreciate the Jefferson County authorities hearing my story and, through these charges, recognizing the role that hate played in my horrible attack,” Singh said in a statement.

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