ELK GROVE, CA - The Elk Grove Police Department is investigating the shooting of two elderly Sikh men as a possible hate crime, said Police Chief Robert M. Lehner in a written statement.
While there is no evidence that suggests hate was a motive for the shooting, police said no evidence points to an alternative motive, either.
Surinder Singh, 65, and long time walking partner Gurmej Atwal, 78, were gunned down in a drive-by shooting while strolling through their neighborhood. Singh was pronounced dead at the scene. Atwal remains in critical condition.
Lehner said the local FBI office has been notified because biased-motivated crimes are violations of both federal and state law.
"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 Sacramento Valley Council of American Islamic Relations offered a $5,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to an arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.
"The Muslim community offers its condolences and support to the Sikh community in this time of sorrow," CAIR-SV Executive Director Basim Elkarra said in a statement.
Elkarra said Sikh men with beards and turbans are often targeted for discrimination by bigots who mistake them for Muslims.
Lehner said representatives from the police department will meet with members of the Sikh community to address any concerns they may have.
"The City of Elk Grove is a marvelously diverse community and the possibility that one of our valued community groups might have been targeted because of their national origin or religion is of grave concern," Lehner said.
Police have not identified any suspects at this time. They said the crime scene at East Stockton Boulevard and Geneva Pointe Drive has yielded little evidence and ask anyone with information to come forward.