Washington, Feb. 24: A 43-year-old Sikh, with a history of wife-beating and child abuse and believed to be unemployed, opened fire on members of his community at a public park in San Jose, California, killing three men and wounding three.
The incident shocked this largely peaceful west coast town where Indians are viewed as law-abiding residents. Local Sikhs have planned a candlelight march on Thursday to regain trust among people.
According to police sources and accounts in the west coast media, more deaths and injuries were averted in the incident on Sunday only because Ranbir Singh, the attacker, was pounced on by Sikh bystanders in the park as he momentarily stopped shooting to reload his semi-automatic pistol.
Eyewitness accounts quoted him as shouting obscenities in Punjabi as he paused to reload the weapon, declaring that “I am not going to let anybody go”.
All the victims were playing cards at Overfelt Gardens in east San Jose on the holiday afternoon when the assailant walked towards them and started shooting without any warning.
The group he was shooting at was absorbed in the card game and did not realise what was happening until three persons had silently slumped over and one of those in the group shouted “people are being killed”.
The police are trying to tie up many loose ends in the case and are not sure if the attacker even knew any of his victims. They released the names of those killed as Satnam Singh, 70, Hari Singh, 65, and Kulwant Singh, 45.
The injured were Harbans Dhokal, 80, Karal Singh, 78, and Mohammed Sharif, 62. Their injuries were not life-threatening, it was stated.
Ranbir is said to have been beaten to death by those who pounced on him, but San Jose’s medical examiner is yet to release the cause of his death and is awaiting results of the toxicology tests.
The police said his body had no signs of trauma, so they were unwilling to guess if he had been injured, suffocated or died of other causes.
Ranbir was arrested in 1996 for alleged abuse of the eldest of his four children.
He did not contest the charge and was asked to do a three years’ probation.
Three years ago, his wife told the police that he had threatened to kill her, but she asked the police not to arrest him. The wife also refused emergency protection. All the same, the police arrested him and he was later sentenced to 15 days in jail. Yesterday, the wife declined any comment.
Ranbir was employed by San Jose International Airport, but he lost his job in 2001. Local media cited court records to show that Ranbir had financial problems.
Three years ago, he was accused of claiming a tax deduction and child-care expenses for his eldest daughter while she was in foster care.