Hate Crime Charge Filed in LA Bus Driver Case

March 2, 2016 (Los Angeles, California)  – The Inglewood District Attorney’s Office filed a hate crime charge Tuesday against defendant K.C. Tard, who brutally attacked Balwinder Jit Singh, a turbaned Sikh L.A. County bus driver.

On November 6, 2015, Mr. Singh was called a “terrorist“ and “suicide bomber,” and was accused of hijacking the bus while being viciously assaulted.  The crime left Mr. Singh in the hospital with a disfigured face and infection in his eye that has required weeks of recovery.

Local police initially failed to take into account the hateful slurs used against Mr. Singh, instead classifying the crime as a simple misdemeanor assault. Nearly two months after the incident, the Sikh Coalition urged the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to investigate the case as a hate crime and used the local media to increase public pressure on the case.  The joint legal and communications advocacy resulted in a felony count of Battery on Transit Personnel with a felony hate crime enhancement against Mr. Tard yesterday.

“I was attacked because of my Sikh religious appearance, and the only reason authorities re-examined my case and brought hate crime charges was because of the Sikh Coalition,” said Balwinder Jit Singh.  “I’m grateful to the Sikh Coalition for working with law enforcement, to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, and to the DA’s office.”

The Sikh Coalition was joined in support by nine other civil rights organizations, led by the local L.A. chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, who wrote a letter underscoring the importance of charging this case as a hate crime.

“Mr. Singh’s case sheds light on the failure of law enforcement agencies to recognize and respond appropriately to hate crime cases and the extraordinary efforts required to get them to reverse course,” said Senior Staff Attorney Gurjot Kaur. “We will continue to push for law enforcement agencies to properly identify and investigate hate crimes, and ensure that individuals who resort to racist violence are held accountable.”

In December and January, the Sikh Coalition sent letters to law enforcement agencies and school superintendents in all 50 states about remaining vigilant in protecting the rights of the Sikh community.

In February, www.ReportHate.org was launched to further ensure that all cases of backlash and bias get reported by Sikhs across the United States. “The Sikh turban stands for justice and equality,” said Ms. Kaur. “It should be celebrated, not feared, and we will continue to work tirelessly to further educate Americans while protecting Sikh rights.”

Please notify law enforcement of any threats or violence, and contact the Sikh Coalition at 212-655-3095 or online here. In addition, we urge community members to review our FAQ guide on hate crimes, hate speech and how to report incidents to the authorities and to the Sikh Coalition. Also please view our printable hate crime poster, which is in both English and Punjabi.

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