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Shooting Of Sikh Army Veteran Divides Community
NPR ^ | May 29, 2014 | Richard Gonzales

Posted on 05/31/2014 5:34:57 PM PDT by nickcarraway

In late January, a mentally ill man was shot and killed by two police officers in Lodi, Calif., south of Sacramento. Tragedy often follows a confrontation between the police and a mentally ill person, but the facts of this case are in dispute.

The victim was a Sikh Army veteran, and his death has roiled the Sikh community and the city. On a recent Saturday evening, more than 100 people gathered at the Sikh temple in the largely agricultural community of Lodi, to remember Parminder Shergill.

Shergill was a 43-year-old Gulf War veteran who had served in Germany and Iraq. But he wound up dead at the hands of the police just a few doors away from his home in Lodi, and there are more questions than answers about how and why he was killed.

There's a clear divide in this meeting. The elder Sikhs, men in turbans and women in their traditional shalwar kameez dress, sit quietly as the 20-somethings do most of the talking.

Palvinder Kaur belongs to a group of young Sikhs called the Jakara Movement. She helped organize this meeting, in part, Kaur says, to deal with the generational split in what to do about Shergill's death.

"There's an active Sikh youth asking for justice, asking for answers, demanding answers in some ways," Kaur says. "And then there is also another segment of the community that wants to hush it down, that wants to put things to rest."

But putting to rest the death of Parminder Shergill doesn't appear likely.

The controversy started on the morning of Jan. 25. That's when Shergill's sister-in-law, Kuldeep, says she called 911 to ask the police to take the veteran to the VA hospital.

"He's going crazy and attacking her," she says on the 911 call.

"Attacking who?" asks the dispatcher.

"My mother-in-law in the house," Kuldeep replies.

"Is he off his meds?"

"Yes he is."

Shergill's family says he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and later with PTSD a few years after his honorable discharge from the Army in 1996. He was no stranger to the police; they had visited the Shergill home on five prior occasions.

When two officers arrived, they found Shergill wandering at a nearby park, and they called out to him to stop. But he ignored them and walked away, back toward his house. The two officers followed him.

On the audio recording of the incident, officers report that he had a knife in his hands and was refusing commands. The two officers opened fire, and Shergill was hit by 14 bullets.

In the immediate aftermath of the killing, the police said they had no choice but to shoot Shergill. And for 13 weeks, the police said nothing more — only that their investigation could take up to a year.

It wasn't until after the Shergill family filed a wrongful death lawsuit that the police released audio recordings and a statement detailing their version of events. The Lodi chief of police did not respond to NPR's requests for an interview.

A few days after the killing, the Shergill family and their supporters in the Sikh community mourned at the veteran's funeral.

"I can't make any sense of it. It makes no sense whatsoever," says Jack Johal, Shergill's cousin and a family spokesman.

Johal says the family has many unanswered questions: Did the veteran charge the police with a knife? Were police trained to deal with mentally ill people? How could they shoot a veteran?

It's an important question to a family with a tradition of military service. Shergill's ancestors were among the first wave of Sikh immigrants who came to California in the early years of the 20th century, says Johal.

"It's a typical Indian immigrant story," he says. "Sikhs are known either as farmers or warriors."

Johal says initially the community's reaction was relatively restrained, and there was little demonstrable anger.

"That's not the Sikh way," he says. "The Sikh way is, as I said, to be compassionate, you know, to be honest, to be humble."

But not everyone agrees.

"I think there are parts of our community that don't want to shake up anything. They want to be that model minority," says Jasdeep Singh, a 27-year-old undergraduate at UC Davis and a former Marine.

Six years ago, Singh was in Fallujah. Now he's among the young Sikhs who say their community has been too patient in waiting for answers about the killing.

"Coming out onto the streets protesting and demanding your rights ... to people who have quietly lived in this country, it's a scary thing," Singh says.

The town hall meeting at the Sikh Temple in Lodi is meant to address that divide — between an older, more cautious generation and a younger one that raises even more questions about the killing. What is the next step in the family's lawsuit? Why are the police officers still on duty? What should people know about PTSD?

One man, Kulvinder Singh, says Sikhs need to raise their profile to get respect.

"Another thing we can do is go to Fourth of July, Veterans Day, other events, dressed as Sikhs dress, American events," he says. "We're Americans. We're fighting and representing America."

Still, another meeting organizer, Deep Singh, sees an opportunity for the Sikh community to speak up about an issue that affects everyone touched by war.

"This is not a Sikh case. This is actually a case about a veteran," he says. "And as we have an increasing numbers of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, we want to make sure such instances never happen again."

Singh says, if nothing else, he hopes this meeting and this tragedy will spur the Sikh community to find its voice and prompt individual Sikhs to embrace their identity as Americans who can demand justice for their community.


TOPICS: Local News; Military/Veterans; Religion
KEYWORDS: army; sikh

1 posted on 05/31/2014 5:34:57 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

In before all the Sikh worship starts.


2 posted on 05/31/2014 7:02:13 PM PDT by ansel12 ((Ted Cruz and Mike Lee-both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Comm as Ginsberg's importance fades)
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To: ansel12
Let me be first.

"Sikhs are known either as farmers or warriors."

And damn good ones, too.

3 posted on 05/31/2014 7:21:09 PM PDT by stboz
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To: nickcarraway

“How could they shoot a veteran?”

A paranoid schizophrenic with a knife charging at a cop... classic suicide by cop. Why should he get a pass just because he was a veteran?


4 posted on 05/31/2014 7:48:16 PM PDT by sagar
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To: nickcarraway

The Sikhs I have known are very concerned about respectability and being good citizens. They are also exceedingly pro-military.

In the 1980s they were purged from the US Army because of their beards, which was a crappy reason. Just a few years ago, the policy was changed letting them back in. And the first young man to graduate and go on active duty was seen as a hero.

Good neighbors.


5 posted on 05/31/2014 8:05:04 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy ("Don't compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative." -Obama, 09-24-11)
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To: ansel12
Give us your critique of Sikhs.
6 posted on 05/31/2014 8:16:41 PM PDT by wideawake
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To: nickcarraway
One of the five religious objects adult male Sikhs are expected to carry is a kirpan - a traditional curved knife.
7 posted on 05/31/2014 8:22:12 PM PDT by wideawake
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To: wideawake

Because I notice the worship of them by some here, I have to give you a critique of them?

That doesn’t make much sense.


8 posted on 05/31/2014 8:31:40 PM PDT by ansel12 ((Ted Cruz and Mike Lee-both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Comm as Ginsberg's importance fades)
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy

Obama should not have reversed President Reagan on that.

“”In 1983 a Sikh contingent, including myself, attended a Q&A Session with President Ronald Reagan at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council Luncheon in California. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3U5M1Prf2k
We Sikhs were sitting in the first row of dinner tables when President Reagan came in. I lip read him saying to one of his aids, “Who are those people with the turbans?” In 1983 I had a lawsuit in Federal Court against Reagan’s Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger which challenged Reagan’s ban on Sikhs serving in the US Army. I lost the case but now Sikhs are being admitted into the US military on a case by case basis. The US Army needs to stop discriminating against Sikhs.
“Sikhs should be allowed to join U.S. Army to stop racist attitudes in military & deter hate crimes” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqdO6s-vgyo
Michael Page’s hate towards Sikhs and his time in the US Army are No coincidence! News reports show that Page’s white supremacist outlooks were shared and even inspired by his fellow soldiers at Fort Bragg. The fact is that the US Army breeds these racist views and nothing will change until the US military opens its doors for all Sikhs to enlist while we wear our articles of faith like turbans, beards and uncut hair.
In 1982 I tried to join the US Army wearing my Sikh articles of faith but President Ronald Reagan had just revoked the long standing exemption for Sikhs to be able to enlist in the US Army do to political pressure from racist groups. There was no tolerance for minority groups in America back then and I was eventually rejected by the US Army because the Army said my turban and beard would interfere with discipline.””


9 posted on 05/31/2014 8:36:16 PM PDT by ansel12 ((Ted Cruz and Mike Lee-both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Comm as Ginsberg's importance fades)
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To: ansel12
You don't have to do anything, obviously.

You seem to have a problem with other FReepers' positive attitude toward Sikhs, even characterizing it as "worship."

Clearly you have a very different opinion that they do, and wanted to make sure you were on the record as a dissenter.

I wanted to get some insight into your dissent.

10 posted on 05/31/2014 8:39:14 PM PDT by wideawake
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To: nickcarraway

Sikhs have been in this country a long time and are active in all walks of life. There are many Gurdwaras in the United States.

Some people think they’re Muslims and think they need to be killed.


11 posted on 05/31/2014 8:40:02 PM PDT by TBP (Obama lies, Granny dies.)
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To: nickcarraway

This kind of thing is routine in India.


12 posted on 05/31/2014 8:40:23 PM PDT by TBP (Obama lies, Granny dies.)
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To: wideawake

It gets quite devotional at times, that is why I used the word worship.


13 posted on 05/31/2014 8:42:47 PM PDT by ansel12 ((Ted Cruz and Mike Lee-both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Comm as Ginsberg's importance fades)
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To: nickcarraway

If the reports are correct, the man was not a stranger to the police - they had made visits to the home on previous occasions due to issues involving the man.

If all that is correct, it is not a matter of “cultural” misunderstandings; whatever other misunderstandings there might have been.


14 posted on 05/31/2014 9:19:31 PM PDT by Wuli
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To: ansel12

ok, let’s put aside the Sikh element. There’s no excuse to fire off 14 rounds at close range - NONE. If it took me 14 rounds to kill a rattler, I’d better mosey on back to town and stay there. There were two officers. Where was the pepper spray? Where were the tazers? Where was the backup, which should have been sent after the caller told the dispatcher the suspected person was ‘off his meds.’ Suicide by cop is one thing; forced ‘suicide’ by psuedocops who think control has to be that instant, that second, or die, and so who have no business being on the street, is quite another.


15 posted on 05/31/2014 9:27:10 PM PDT by blueplum
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To: ansel12

The bottom line is that a policy that excludes top notch soldiers must have a critical rationale, not that somebody just doesn’t like them. Excluding someone who has a well trimmed beard is just plain stupid.

I wouldn’t put racism as a reason for rejecting them, but just plain ignorance, for not knowing what they are, or worse, thinking they are Muslims.

Sikhs composed the most decorated regiment in the British Army, and are now the most decorated regiment in the Indian Army. In the US military, as enlisted they typically advance to senior NCO, and as officers, to higher ranks, though they have been excluded from flag officer ratings.

In the US military, they tend to prefer Infantry combat arms, in elite units if possible, and Medical Corps as physicians. Their competency in either is unchallenged.

Excluding them to me is like excluding Methodists, except Sikhs tend to have better motivation and drive.


16 posted on 06/01/2014 6:45:28 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy ("Don't compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative." -Obama, 09-24-11)
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy

Sikhs are evidently not so top-notch, they are whiners and one of the bad forces in weakening the US military.

Reagan was not “racist” about their weird religion or “Ignorant” about having people shave and wear the uniform, he was right to insist they get with the plan.

Reagan was right, Obama is wrong, and I would like to see your numbers for all those claims you made about the GIs who practice Sikhism.


17 posted on 06/01/2014 8:53:43 AM PDT by ansel12 ((Ted Cruz and Mike Lee-both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Comm as Ginsberg's importance fades)
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To: ansel12

I disregarded the claim of “racism”, because at the time, it was not an issue. Instead the official reason was turbans and beards, which I will take at face value, even though they are stupid reasons.

Nor will I criticize Reagan. He just took bad advice from the military command.

http://www.sikhcoalition.org/army-campaign/sikhs-in-the-us-army/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikh_Regiment

21 Indian Order of Merits (roughly equivalent to the US Medal of Honor), 14 Victoria Crosses (same), multiple citations for gallantry and heroism.

Now your turn. Please cite how they “weaken the US military”. You seem to really have a down on Sikhs, so why is that? All the Sikhs I met in the military, and in civilian life, seem to be pretty respectable people.


18 posted on 06/01/2014 10:08:38 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy ("Don't compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative." -Obama, 09-24-11)
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy
The Sikhs seem to be trouble making political activist in the military.

Reagan wasn't told what to do, the ex-Army captain did what was right in regards to telling the Sikhs to go military or move on to other work, Obama agrees with you.

I asked you ""I would like to see your numbers for all those claims you made about the GIs who practice Sikhism."" as you keep using Sikh political activist sites, you didn't show me those numbers.

"In the US military, as enlisted they typically advance to senior NCO, and as officers, to higher ranks, though they have been excluded from flag officer ratings.
In the US military, they tend to prefer Infantry combat arms, in elite units if possible, and Medical Corps as physicians. Their competency in either is unchallenged.
Excluding them to me is like excluding Methodists, except Sikhs tend to have better motivation and drive."

19 posted on 06/01/2014 10:31:35 AM PDT by ansel12 ((Ted Cruz and Mike Lee-both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Comm as Ginsberg's importance fades)
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To: blueplum
There’s no excuse to fire off 14 rounds at close range - NONE.

Article doesn't say they fired 14 rounds, it says they hit him 14x. How many rounds they fired was not specified.

20 posted on 06/01/2014 11:46:16 AM PDT by Sherman Logan
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To: ansel12

Okay, to respond to your rather disjointed reply:

1) The Sikhs seem to be trouble making political activist in the military.

> Please cite a source for this.

2) Reagan wasn’t told what to do, the ex-Army captain did what was right in regards to telling the Sikhs to go military or move on to other work, Obama agrees with you.

What ex-Army Captain? What are you talking about?

3) I asked you “”I would like to see your numbers for all those claims you made about the GIs who practice Sikhism.”” as you keep using Sikh political activist sites, you didn’t show me those numbers.

I looked through your previous posts addressed to me, and didn’t see your quotation supposedly addressed to me. Did you write that to someone else? If it is in quotations, I assume you are referring to an actual quote.

Also, I gave the link to *a* Sikh site, that lauded the performance of Sikhs in the military. Do you suggest these people do not or did not exist?

Finally, I note that you did not respond to my request for a citation that would explain your dislike of Sikhs. Do you have one, or is it just you?


21 posted on 06/01/2014 12:11:47 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy ("Don't compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative." -Obama, 09-24-11)
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy

1)The Sikhs are famous for causing problems for the US military.

Look at the link I provided for you in post 9, as an example of their anti-military activism.

2) Remember Ronald Reagan? The ex-army captain who served in uniform for 9 years?

3) When you were looking through my posts to you for the quote “”I would like to see your numbers for all those claims you made about the GIs who practice Sikhism.”” did you look in post 17?

4) Showing me a list of 10 Sihks, who have served as ordinary soldiers, is not the evidence I asked for to prove your claims of ***”In the US military, as enlisted they typically advance to senior NCO, and as officers, to higher ranks, though they have been excluded from flag officer ratings.
In the US military, they tend to prefer Infantry combat arms, in elite units if possible, and Medical Corps as physicians. Their competency in either is unchallenged.
Excluding them to me is like excluding Methodists, except Sikhs tend to have better motivation and drive.”***

5) I don’t dislike Sikhs, I have no interest in them, until they started fighting against my military and bringing in their left wing activism to it, I agree with Reagan, you agree with Obama, I like my team’s judgement on military policy better than yours.

According to the Los Angeles Times of April 2014 “”Of the more than 500,000 active-duty troops in the Army, only two are Sikhs. A third serves in the reserves.””


22 posted on 06/01/2014 12:38:31 PM PDT by ansel12 ((Ted Cruz and Mike Lee-both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Comm as Ginsberg's importance fades)
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