The weekend stabbing of a Sikh man in Santa Clara whose assailant allegedly thought he was a member of the Taliban raises fears that turmoil in the Middle East could fuel similar hate-based crimes, a Contra Costa Sikh leader said Wednesday.
"I think the more flare-ups you get there, the more incidents you're going to have in this country," said J.P. Singh, president of Gurdwara Sahib, the Sikh Center of the San Francisco Bay Area in El Sobrante. "And some of them will result from mistaken identity because there's not enough education about who the people next door are."
Everett Thompson, 25, is charged with attempted murder with a hate-crime enhancement in connection with the stabbing of his Sikh neighbor, Iqbal Singh 66, on Sunday. Singh, who is not related to J.P. Singh, is expected to survive.
"There are indications that he (Thompson) was seeking to avenge 9/11 and to kill a member of the Taliban," said Jay Boyarsky, supervising deputy district attorney in charge of the hate crimes unit in Santa Clara County.
Thompson appeared Wednesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court for arraignment, which was continued to Aug. 10.
"Members of the Sikh community are unfortunately targeted a lot because they are mistaken for Muslim terrorists or because of the way they dress," Boyarsky said.
Memories of ethnically motivated crime are vivid at the El Sobrante temple, whose former member Balbir Singh Sodhi was the nation's first fatal victim of a hate crime after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A former Walnut Creek resident, Sodhi was standing in front of the gas station he owned in Mesa, Ariz., on Sept. 15, 2001, when he was shot by a man who shouted, "I stand for America all the way" as he was being handcuffed and later told police all Arabs should be shot and that he wanted to "slit some Iranians' throats."