The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office has filed assault and hate crime charges against the men who allegedly assaulted Maan Singh Khalsa last month in Richmond, California.
According to NBC Bay Area, Chase Little and Dustin Micheal Albarado, both who were previously arrested, have been charged with felony assault charges. Albrado has now been cleared of criminal liability and will not be charged. Prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against Little and Colton Leblanc, who had previously escaped but is now also being charged with felony assault charges, the AP reports.
"It is clear that bias was a substantial factor in this brutal assault," Harsimran Kaur, legal director for The Sikh Coalition, told NBC News. "We can't combat the problem of hatred in our communities if we don't recognize it first, and District Attorney Peterson has taken a critical first step in doing that today."
Khalsa, a Sikh-American information technology specialist, was driving home from work on September 25 when a man in a truck allegedly threw a beer can at his car, according to The Sikh Coalition. At a later intersection, three men allegedly got out of the truck and assaulted Khalsa through his open car window, knocking off his turban and hitting his face repeatedly. Shouting, "Cut his f—g hair," the men allegedly pulled his head out of the window and cut a fistful of his hair with a knife. Khalsa suffered injuries to his eye, teeth, finger, and hands.
Khalsa believes he was targeted because of his turban, uncut hair, and beard, which he maintains as articles of his Sikh faith, which originated in India. Sikh Americans have been a part of America for over 150 years, but are often mistaken for stereotypes of terrorists, especially since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
"The assailants violently targeted my Sikh faith. I am thankful to the Richmond Police Department and Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson for ensuring that my attackers were charged with hate crimes," said Khalsa in a statement. "The charges are the first step to addressing violence and bigotry, which plague communities across the United States."
Elected officials, community leaders, and a diverse coalition of 30 civil rights organizations had urged the District Attorney to investigate and pursue hate crime charges.