Four months after Sikh-American bus driver Balwinder Jit Singh was attacked while working, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has filed a hate crime charge against the man accused of attacking him, according to The Sikh Coalition.
Though K.C. Tard allegedly attacked Singh in Singh's bus last November while calling him a "terrorist" and "suicide bomber", the LA County Sheriff's Department initially did not investigate the possibility of a hate crime, according to The Sikh Coalition. On Tuesday, after multiple groups called for a hate crime investigation, a charge of one felony count of battery on transit personnel with a felony hate crime enhancement was levied against Ward.
"Since hate crimes often terrorize entire communities, it's critical for law enforcement agencies to respond appropriately to restore trust and assure impacted communities that perpetrators will be held accountable," Gurjot Kaur, senior staff attorney at The Sikh Coalition, told NBC News. "Proper training of officers will also help build confidence in victims, who may feel fearful or ashamed, and encourage reporting."
After The Sikh Coalition began representing Singh in January, LA County Sheriff's Department Capt. Karl Schow told the Associated Press, "We're absolutely doubling back and going to add that to the investigation."
"I was attacked because of my Sikh religious appearance and I'm grateful that authorities re-examined my case and finally brought hate crime charges against the assailant," Singh, who wears a turban and beard as articles of his faith, said in a statement. "Acknowledging hatred when it occurs is the necessary first step for combating the problem."
Although Sikh Americans have been part of the United States for 125 years, they are often targeted for violence and intimidation because of their turbans and beards, which they wear as articles of their faith.