31-year-old Gilbert Garcia Jr., of Fresno, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for beating an 82-year-old Sikh man outside a Fresno temple in May 2013.
Piara Singh had just finished helping prepare meals for the needy at the Nanaksar Sikh Temple, when Garcia attacked with a steel rod outside the Nanaksar Sikh Temple, shouting about the Taliban and Muslims. Then 82-year-old Singh was hospitalized, suffering a punctured lung, broken ribs, head wounds, and countless bruises. Two-and-a-half years later, the mental scars still sting. Singh was hospitalized with head wounds, broken ribs and lung lacerations.
Misdirected Hate Crime
Local civil right activists say that this type of hostility, unfortunately, isn’t uncommon. Sikhs frequently are the targets of misdirected Muslim hate crimes, despite the fact that the two religions are completely separate. “The Sikhs continue to be mistaken as terrorists because our media tends to show instances of terrorist attacks and images of the terrorists wearing turbans,” said community activist Ike Grewal, who frequently speaks with Singh’s family.
Attempted Mental Instability Defense
To defend against what the prosecution classified as a hate crime, Garcia’s defense attorney claimed that he was mentally incompetent and unstable. Garcia’s doctors, however determined that was mostly faking it to avoid punishment. They also cite Garcia’s formulated attempts to hide from police, including spraying himself with pepper spray to deter police dogs, as proof that he wasn’t insane.
Sikh leaders hope that Singh’s pain and mental anguish – fear and flashbacks still persisting, two and a half years years later – will at least lead to better understanding of their community, which is hard at work to fit in as Americans.