Two men suspected of using a pocket knife to brutally assault a Sikh man in Richmond, California last month were charged with a hate crime Friday morning (local time).
Prosecutors filed hate crime charges against Chase Little, 31, and Colton Leblanc, 24, officials said. A man who was previously arrested, Dustin Albarado, 25, will not be charged, said Deputy District Attorney Simon O'Connell.
They have been charged with felony assault and hate crimes. A bench warrant has been issued for Leblanc. Little is free on bail, but it was not immediately known if he has an attorney.
Authorities said the men seriously injured Maan Singh Khalsa when they forcefully removed his turban and cut off a fistful of his hair. Mr Khalsa's religion mandates that he not cut his hair.
Mr Khalsa's finger will need to be amputated because of an infection to a cut he received while fighting off his attackers.
Mr Khalsa said in a press release issued by the Sikh Coalition, "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."
According to the East Bay Times, the assailants were Koch Industries employees staying at a Richmond hotel while they worked for a subcontractor job at the Chevron refinery in Richmond. Chevron fired them once they learned of the arrests.
About 30 faith-based and advocacy groups sent a letter to the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office calling for hate crime charges in the attack.
Mr Khalsa, 41, said the assailants violently targeted his Sikh faith.
"The charges are the first step to addressing violence and bigotry, which plague communities across the United States," he said in a statement.
Authorities said Mr Khalsa was at a Richmond intersection on September 25 when a man in a truck threw a beer can at his car.
According to the Sikh Coalition, Mr Khalsa was driving home from work at 9pm when he was stopped at a red light near Hilltop Mall Drive in Richmond, half a mile from his home.
Without provocation, a man in a white Ford F-150 threw the beer can at Mr Khalsa's car. He rolled down his window and saw five or six white men in their late 20s or early 30s in the Ford.
At an intersection farther up the road, the assailants got out of the truck and assaulted Mr Khalsa through his open car window, knocking off his Sikh turban and hitting his face repeatedly, according to the Sikh Coalition, which has been advocating on his behalf.
They shouted expletives at him and Mr Khalsa called 911. Three men approached the car and then pulled his head out of the window, knocked off his Sikh turban and cut a fistful of his religiously-mandated unshorn hair with a knife.
The shouts are audible on the 911 call recording, according to the Sikh Coalition.
Mr Khalsa sustained injuries to his fingers, hands, eye and teeth, the coalition said.
In addition to the damage done to his fingers, Mr Khalsa suffered a swollen black eye, and will have to get root canals due to dental damage sustained in the attack, according to the Sikh Coalition.
"I trusted the district attorney's office to do the right thing and they came through," said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. "We do not condone this in Richmond and we don't condone it in America."
Congressman Mark DeSaulnier expressed his concerns over the attack in a statement Friday saying, "Acts of discrimination and hatred have no place in our society, and no member of our community should ever fear for their safety because of their religion or culture. I am pleased the District Attorney's office has filed hate crime charges and is seeking justice for Mr. Khalsa, and upholding the values of the people of Richmond."