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Two men have been arrested on felony assault charges in the attack of Maan Singh Khalsa, a Sikh-American information technology specialist in Richmond, California, according to NBC Bay Area. A third suspect reportedly escaped.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney's office said that the attack is still being investigated, and District Attorney Mark Peterson will decide next week whether or not to also charge the two men with a hate crime, according to NBC Bay Area.
"The responding officers were dubious that a hate crime had occurred,” Harsimran Kaur, legal director of The Sikh Coalition, told NBC News. “We are urging authorities to investigate and prosecute this case as a hate crime because it was wholly unprovoked, brutal, and his Sikh articles of faith — his turban and unshorn hair — were violently targeted."
Khalsa was driving home from work on Sept. 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.
In addition to his cut hair, Khalsa’s injuries included a swollen black eye, dental injuries which will require surgeries, injuries to his hands and fingers that required stitches, and an infected finger that may have to be amputated, according to The Sikh Coalition.
“The attackers caused physical injuries and deep harm when they targeted my Sikh faith,” Khalsa said in a statement. “I urge a thorough investigation so we can address the tide of violence and bigotry in this country.”
Khalsa believes he was targeted because of his turban and beard. Sikhs maintain beards and wear their long uncut hair in a turban as articles of their faith. They have been a part of America for over 150 years.
“I trust that the District Attorney will take every step to prosecute the suspects and bring the appropriate charges forward,” Richmond mayor Tom Butt said in a statement. “No one should have to experience the fear of being targeted or attacked based on their identity or for practicing their religion.”