Sikh Stabbing Suspect Could Face Life Term
Hate crime alleged in stabbing of Sikh Santa Clara suspect could face life term if he is convicted
Santa Clara man accused of stabbing his Sikh neighbor in the neck because he thought the man was a member of the Taliban is scheduled to be arraigned today in a San Jose courtroom on attempted murder and hate crime charges, authorities said.
Everett Thompson, 25, could face life in prison if convicted in the attack, prosecutor Jay Boyarsky said. He said formal charges will be filed today, and prosecutors will ask that Thompson be held without bail.
Iqbal Singh, 40, was standing with his 2-year-old granddaughter in his family's carport on Sunday preparing to leave for religious services when Thompson approached and stabbed him once in the neck with a steak knife, Boyarsky said.
Singh did not know Thompson, who said nothing during the attack in the 3400 block of Agate Drive, Boyarsky said. Authorities did not know Thompson's occupation.
Singh was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover, police Sgt. Kurt Clarke said. The granddaughter was not injured.
Thompson was arrested at his home a short distance away, where police also found the knife they suspect was used, said Boyarsky, who oversees hate-crime prosecutions for the Santa Clara County district attorney.
"There are indications in the police report that Mr. Thompson wanted to seek revenge for Sept. 11 and attack a member of the Taliban," Boyarsky said.
"Investigators believe that it was hate-crime motivated," Clarke said. "Mr. Singh was wearing a turban, and Mr. Thompson interpreted that Mr. Singh was a member of the Taliban, which is obviously not true."
The Taliban is a fundamentalist Islamic movement in Afghanistan that is fighting a guerrilla war there after a U.S. invasion ousted it from power in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The regime required men to wear beards and head coverings.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in northern India. The religion proscribes that Sikhs never cut their hair, and men often wear turbans. There are about 40,000 Sikhs in the Bay Area, according to area Sikh leaders, and many have been harassed by people who mistake them for Muslims and link them to terrorism.
"It's sadly not unknown for Sikh individuals to be targeted as victims of hate crimes by people who perceive them as a quote-unquote terrorist or a quote-unquote Muslim extremist," Boyarsky said. "This crime seems to fit that horrible pattern."
At least three Sikh cabdrivers have been shot in the Bay Area since Sept. 11, 2001 -- two fatally. Someone also shot at the sign for Vacaville's Sikh temple, or gurdwara. In 2004, Molotov cocktails were thrown at California's oldest gurdwara, in Stockton. In 2005, someone spray painted the Sikh temple in Lodi with anti-Muslim epithets.
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Reports of the crime shocked the suspect's close-knit family. Thompson's cousin Gary Lopez described a large multicultural family, that includes a Sikh great-uncle in Los Angeles.
``This is not something a sane person would do,'' Lopez said. ``This isn't something that the Everett I know would do.''
But Thompson began to change two years ago, Lopez said. He was arrested for crouching on his hands and knees in the middle of a South Bay street and barking like a dog, Lopez said. The family intervened and Thompson began taking medication.
Lopez could not explain Thompson's alleged attack on Singh.
Jay Boyarsky, who is overseeing the prosecution of both cases for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, said no matter what their motivation, the suspects' alleged behavior was unacceptable.
``Although these cases present very different facts, they remind all for us that we are vulnerable to hate,'' Boyarsky said. ``And both cases present a challenge for us to work toward a more just community free from racism, bias and prejudice.''
There has been a troubling convergence of hate crimes recently, along with the widely reported anti-Semitic tirade by Hollywood star Mel Gibson.
Experts said the recent spate of hate crimes are disparate, unconnected incidents. But none should be excused or rationalized because their perpetrators may be mentally ill, drunk or from a far away place, according to Jonathan Bernstein, the area's director of the Anti-Defamation League.
``All of these are ways for us to feel more comfortable about our situation,'' Bernstein said. `` `I don't need to get so deeply involved with this, it's an aberration,' they might say. When in fact we all do get involved in this fight.''
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