A first-generation Sikh American has filed a lawsuit against Sutter County in California, its deputies and two women he accused of racist threats.
Rouble Claire, 66, reportedly suffered verbal abuse and racist threats at the South Butte Market in Sutter on May 11, 2021.
Claire exited the small convenience store when a woman confronted him in the parking lot and accused him of hitting and killing her dog with his car on the same day.
The elderly man denied the woman’s allegations, saying there was no evidence on his car or nearby roadways to prove that he killed her dog.
The woman, later identified in reports as Claire’s neighbor Sara Hollis, 23, started targeting the man with expletives and called him a “f*cking” Hindu.
Claire claimed the woman also threatened to run him over with her car by speeding toward him before stopping and closing in on him behind his car.
“I could not believe my eyes,” Claire told The Sacramento Bee. “She actually backed up the car about 50 feet, to the end of the parking lot, and then she sped towards me. Must be about 20, 25 miles per hour.” She made a “sudden, screeching left turn and stopped.”
The woman drove away as he returned to the store and asked an employee to call 911. After waiting for 30 minutes for the deputies to arrive, Claire decided to go home.
Later that day, he saw a different woman in front of his house, writing something on the pavement with a piece of pink chalk. Through his kitchen window, he saw the woman had scribbled the words “sand n***er” in the corner of his driveway.
When Claire opened his door and started taking photos, the woman called him a racial slur before walking away.
Claire contacted local authorities again and reported what happened to two deputies, indicating that he wanted to file hate crime charges for both incidents.
Claire’s lawsuit would later complain that the deputies did not document Claire’s intent to pursue hate crime charges and even falsely stated that Claire had only requested Hollis be “verbally admonished.”
It further alleges that one of the deputies attempted to destroy evidence in the chalk incident by pouring water over racist writing.
In December, the Sheriff’s Office recommended an assault charge for the incident at the parking lot but the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute.
On Monday, Claire’s lawyers Gina Szeto-Wong and Sean Tamura-Sato filed a 41-page civil lawsuit against Sutter County, its deputies and two women in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento.
The suit accused the Sheriff’s Office of violating Claire’s civil rights by failing to adequately investigate “based upon Mr. Claire’s race, ethnicity, and/or status as a hate crime victim.” It is also seeking damages from the county and from two civilian defendants for assault, trespassing and infliction of emotional distress.
— Sikh Coalition (@sikh_coalition) May 11, 2022
According to the advocacy group Sikh Coalition, Sutter County District Attorney Amanda Hopper and her office should be blamed for inaction and their refusal to press charges in response to the incidents.
Hopper refuted the claim, stating that all of the reports and evidence related to the case were not forwarded to her office.
UPDATE: @sikh_coalition Legal Director Amrith Kaur Aakre responds to statements that the Sutter County DA has shared with local media regarding her office’s handling of the threats and slurs faced by our client Mr. Claire. pic.twitter.com/uuHHX9ULcK
— Sikh Coalition (@sikh_coalition) May 12, 2022
Amrith Kaur Aakre, legal director for the Sikh Coalition advocacy group accused Hopper of “mischaracterizing facts,” citing reports indicating that the Sheriff’s office had notified her office of Claire’s case back in September 2021.
He added that the Coalition had also reached out to Hopper’s office in November 2021 and February this year to “lay out all of the evidence in this case and explain the charges that [they] believe to be warranted based on the facts.”
In response, Hopper explained that the case had been refused due to insufficient evidence: “The failures in proof specifically stem from Mr. Claire’s statement that the vehicle swerved and stopped approximately five feet from where he was standing and that Ms. Hollis ‘maneuvered her vehicle to avoid hitting’ him.”
Szeto-Wong and Tamura-Sato are now preparing for the first hearing in August by collecting more information about the two women involved and the role of the SCSO in the case.