Washington, March 8 (IANS) US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) joined the probe into the shooting of two elderly Sikhs in California as a shocked community announced a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunman.
Two friends Surinder Singh, 67, and Gurmej Atwal, 78, were shot at on their afternoon stroll through Elk Grove, Sacramento Friday.
Surinder Singh died on the spot from a shot to the upper torso, while Atwal remained in critical but stable condition at a South Sacramento Medical Center from two bullets to the chest.
He still cannot talk, but is nodding yes or no to questions, his son, Kamaljit Atwal told Sacramento Bee newspaper.
Elk Grove Police Capt. Bryan Noblett said witnesses described a 1999 to 2003 beige or tan Ford F-150 pickup truck in the area of the shooting.
A motive has not been established. The shooting is being investigated with the help of the FBI as a possible hate crime, said Elk Grove Police spokesman Christopher Trim.
“There is no evidence that would indicate a hate crime, but neither is there any evidence to eliminate that possibility,” he said.
The victims’ families and others fear Singh and Atwal were targeted because they were wearing turbans, which some Americans mistakenly think represent Taliban and Muslim extremists.
“This is a rough year for Sikhs. When anything happens in the Middle East, Sikhs are targeted,” said Darshan Singh Mundy, a Sikh civil rights leader at a news conference at the West Sacramento gurdwara with about 100 community leaders.
“About 99.9 percent of those wearing turbans in America are Sikhs, but we have nothing to do with 9/11. There are Sikhs in the US Army, and two Sikh women are pilots of F-16s in the Air Force,” he said.
On Sunday, the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations offered a $5,000 reward for tips in the case.
Elk Grove Mayor Steve Detrick said the city has no history of hate crimes or racial epithets against the roughly 5,000 Sikhs living there.