Reward offered in Calif. shooting of 2 Sikh men

The Associated Press
Sunday, March 6, 2011; 6:44 PM

ELK GROVE, Calif. -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations has offered a $5,000 reward after two Sikh men were gunned down - one of them fatally - on a sidewalk in a Northern California suburb.

The executive director of the council's Sacramento Valley chapter noted that Sikh men in beards and turbans are often targeted by those who mistake them for Muslims.

"The Muslim community offers its condolences and support to the Sikh community in this time of sorrow," Basim Elkarra said.

The reward for information leading to a conviction in the Friday afternoon shooting in Elk Grove comes as police cautioned there was no evidence it was a hate crime. However, the Sacramento suburb's police chief, Robert Lehner, said there was no other apparent motive.

"The obvious Sikh appearance of the men, including the traditional Dastar headwear and lack of any other apparent motive, increasingly raise that possibility," he said in a statement.

Authorities said 65-year-old Surinder Singh was pronounced dead at the scene, and a second man, identified as 78-year-old Gurmej Atwal, has been hospitalized in critical condition.

Singh was a truck driver who had worked in both India and Libya before moving to the United States about five years ago, his son Harvinder Singh, told the Sacramento Bee. He had recently survived his fourth heart attack.

Atwal moved to the U.S. from India in 2001, and the family settled two years later in Elk Grove, according to his son, Kamaljit Atwal.

"He is quite a gentle man," he said.

© 2011 The Associated Press