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The Sikh Coalition has called on authorities to press hate crime charges in an incident that left a liquor store owner hospitalized for months after a White man allegedly ran over him.
The incident reportedly started inside the Sikh man’s store, Two Angels Liquors, at 2589 S. Lewis Way in Lakewood, Colorado on April 29.
The suspect, identified as Eric Breemen, allegedly walked into the store, knocked over items and told owners to “go back to your country,” according to the Denver Post.
A witness then reported seeing the store owner, identified as Lakhwant Singh, in a verbal altercation with Breemen in the parking lot.
After the argument, Breemen allegedly got into a black sedan and headed for Singh.
“(Singh) attempted to get out of the way of the vehicle but was struck and was rolled over by both front and rear tires of the vehicle,” an affidavit from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office stated.
As a result, Singh sustained a broken arm, broken ribs and spinal fracture, among other injuries.
“From what I know, [my father] chased [the man] out, and as he was leaving, [my father] was checking his license plate to inform the cops,” his son Onkar told Colorado Community Media. “The guy drove the car into him and ran him over. It was definitely intentional. I saw it on video.”
Breemen, who turned out to be involved in other case reports, was located and taken to custody on April 30. During his interview, the 36-year-old claimed that two people in the store picked on him for watching transsexual pornography.
He claimed that Singh threatened him with a large rock. Shortly after, he allegedly went back to his car and tried to leave the parking lot, but Singh allegedly jumped in front of him.
Breemen was charged with six felonies, including: (1) attempted murder, (2) first-degree assault for extreme indifference, (3) first-degree assault for causing serious bodily injury, (4) leaving a scene involving serious bodily injury, (5) vehicular assault and (6) violating bail bond conditions (for existing counts of felony menacing). Additionally, he was charged with four violent crime counts.
The Sikh Coalition is now calling on the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to press hate crime charges against Breemen. According to his arrest affidavit, he stated that Singh “looked like an older Arab.”
“There is little doubt that Defendant’s violent acts towards Mr. Singh and his wife are related to the fact that the Singhs have dark skin and are ethnically Indian, as well as the fact that Mr. Singh wears a turban and maintains a beard — all of which are attributable to his race, religion, ancestry and national origin, amongst other protected categories, pursuant to Colorado’s bias motivated crimes statue,” Amrith Kaur, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, wrote in a letter to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and the Lakewood County Police Department.
“Specifically, Defendant came into their store, became irate at the Singhs’ appearance and told them to ‘Go back to your country!’, which courts and legal scholars have routinely held to be discriminatory, unlawful conduct,” she added.
Singh has since spoken regarding the incident. He believes it was a hate crime.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“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.”
On June 30, 28 other civil rights organizations, interfaith groups, gurdwaras and institutions joined the Sikh Coalition to sign another letter demanding the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
READ: 29 civil rights organizations, interfaith groups, gurdwaras, and other institutions sign on to a letter demanding that Jefferson County DA Peter Weir fully investigate the April 29 assault of Mr. Lakhwant Singh as a hate crime. #JusticeForLakhwant https://t.co/c7uqPZHW9G pic.twitter.com/lhZpBcCtrS
— Sikh Coalition (@sikh_coalition) June 30, 2020
A Change.org petition was additionally set up on Singh’s behalf. It also seeks to get Breemen charged with a hate crime.
Breemen will attend a preliminary hearing on July 24. He is held at the Jefferson County Jail on a $50,000 bond.
Feature Images via Sikh Coalition (left) and First Judicial District Attorney’s Office (right)