March 11, 2016 (Spokane, WA) – On the night of March 3, Jeffrey C. Pittman broke into a Spokane, Washington gurdwara and desecrated the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, while causing nearly $30,000 in additional damage. Mr. Pittman, who was arrested by Spokane police on March 4, claimed that he broke in looking for food before coming to the mistaken conclusion that the gurdwara was a mosque connected with ISIS.
“No community should ever have to endure its house of worship being desecrated,” said Senior Staff Attorney, Gurjot Kaur. “We must continue to stand in solidarity with our neighbors of every faith in denouncing hate.”
The Sikh Coalition immediately provided legal and communications support to the Spokane sangat in the days following the incident and will continue to do so as authorities pursue a hate crime charge in the case. Mr. Pittman has been charged with first degree burglary, first degree malicious mischief, and malicious harassment. Malicious harassment denotes a hate crime under Washington law.
“We enormously appreciate the timely support that the Sikh Coalition has provided to us over the past week,” said Spokane gurdwara spokeswoman, Subarna Nagra. “The combined legal and media support guaranteed that this case received the necessary attention, and we’re now pivoting to using this as an opportunity to raise Sikh awareness.”
The Sikh Coalition’s legal team assisted the gurdwara in liaising with local law enforcement agencies, which immediately recognized the incident as a hate crime and swiftly filed appropriate charges against Mr. Pittman. The Sikh Coalition is grateful to Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney, Spokane Mayor David Condon, and Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins for taking action to ensure that the bias motivation behind the incident was thoroughly investigated and the perpetrator held accountable.
Following an increase in xenophobic political rhetoric, we have witnessed a sharp increase in the targeting of Sikhs and other minorities in the United States. The Sikh Coalition recently sent letters to law enforcement agencies and all 50 state superintendents of education about remaining vigilant in protecting the rights of the Sikh community.
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 reporting incidents. Also, please view our printable hate crime poster, which is in both English and Punjabi.
Please continue to use our new online tool, www.ReportHate.org, to report incidents of harassment, discrimination and violence. We will use the confidential data to better target our outreach efforts to law enforcement, lawmakers and educators.