The Sikh Coalition, which works to protect the constitutional right to practice faith, is calling on the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office to press hate crime charges after Lakhwant Singh, …
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The Sikh Coalition, which works to protect the constitutional right to practice faith, is calling on the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office to press hate crime charges after Lakhwant Singh, a Lakewood liquor store owner, was attacked by a man charged with striking him with his car.
An affidavit from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office alleges that Eric Breemen, a 36-year-old Denver resident, struck Singh, who owns Two Angels Liquors, with a black sedan on April 29.
Breemen was 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.
When asked if the DA's Office is considering hate crime charges for Breemen, Pam Russell, a spokesperson for the office, said the investigation in the case is ongoing.
Amrith Kaur, Sikh Coalition legal director, said Breemen told Singh to go back to his country before the incident occurred and accused him of being from the Middle East.
When discussing the alleged incident, Singh's son, Onkar Singh, told Colorado Community Media that a man walked inside Two Angels Liquors, cursed loudly, and then went to the counter of the liquor store and started breaking everything he saw.
Singh's wife spoke to Singh in Punjabi, his native language, when the man was at the store's counter, Kaur said. The man then started screaming at the couple, telling them they don't belong in the country, according to Kaur.
After leaving the store's counter, the man went to his vehicle, and Singh went to take a photo of the man's license plate to report him to the police, Onkar said, who watched a video of the incident.
The man then drove his vehicle into Singh and ran him over, according to Onkar.
Breemen told police he was followed by the Two Angels Liquors owner who “looked like an older Arab,” according to the arrest affidavit.
“There is a pattern in the way (the assailant) treated (Singh) and his wife and the way (the man) decided it's up to him to decide whether (Singh) belongs in this country and the way (the man) attacked him so brutally. I think all of us as a society need to stop, pause and reflect — it's 2020 and this action is happening,” Kaur said.
“And in addition to that, we're talking about an individual who thinks it's OK to ram his vehicle into someone. We think it's important to recognize vehicle ramming isn't an isolated thing when we're talking about individuals in general who want to hurt people who have been othered,” Kaur added.
Singh suffered from a broken left arm, broken ribs, internal bleeding, a possible clavicle fracture and a spinal fracture, Onkar said. He is hopeful to return home from a rehabilitation facility in early July.
Kaur said Singh participated in a videocall with an assistant First Judicial District attorney and a Jefferson County investigator to discuss his side of the incident.
“No one deserves to be targeted because of who they are, and I hope that sharing my story sheds further light on the hatred and bigotry faced by Sikhs and others across the country. Colorado is my home, and I urge the authorities in charge of my attacker's case to demonstrate, through action, that crimes rooted in hate will not be tolerated,” Singh said in a statement.
According to the Sikh Coalition, there are more than 25 million Sikhs worldwide — most of whom live in Punjab, India. CNN described Sikhism as a monotheistic faith that believes in equality and service to others.
The FBI defines a hate crime as a traditional offense such as murder, arson or vandalism with an added element of bias.
Alexis King, a Democratic candidate for First Judicial District attorney, released a statement supporting the idea of filing hate crime charges against Breemen.
Breemen is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on July 24.
“A hate crime doesn't just impact an individual — it impacts the entire community. It has been nearly two months for this case, and (the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office) has yet to guarantee hate crime charges are forthcoming,” said Nikki Singh, policy and advocacy manager for the Sikh Coalition. “It's not something that just the Sikh community in Colorado is monitoring. The Sikh community at large is.”
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