Hate crime not ruled out in Fresno slaying of Sikh store clerk

Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer and Ike Grewal, a member of the Sikh Council of Central California, speak at a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 about the New Year’s Day murder of Gurcharan Singh Gill, a 68-year-old clerk at Shields Express Mart.

By Jim Guy jguy@fresnobee.com

A $10,000 reward is being offered in the slaying of a 68-year-old Sikh man brutally murdered in a central Fresno convenience store on New Year’s Day.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer announced the reward at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in which an enhanced video of the suspected killer of Gurcharan Singh Gill was shown to the media.

“We need to identify this individual, arrest him and send him to prison,” Dyer said. The chief was joined at the news conference by Ike Grewal, a member of Fresno’s Sikh community, which is putting up $8,000 of the reward. The remainder is from the Crime Stoppers program. Police do not know whether the murder was committed because Gill was a Sikh, but investigators have not eliminated that as a motive.

Gill, who had lived in the United States for 30 years, was not wearing any attire that would indicate he was a member of the Sikh community when he was assaulted in the Shields Express Market shortly before 4 p.m. Jan. 1.

The video shows the light-skinned suspect, who police say appears to be between 16 and 18 and dressed in a red hoodie, jeans and a black baseball cap with a black backpack, walking south toward the market near Shields and West avenues from nearby Channing Avenue. He waited outside the market for about five minutes before entering, possibly to make sure there were no customers present.

Inside the store, the suspect went to a counter and apparently sought the help of Gill regarding something inside a counter. Once Gill was within about a foot, the suspect stabbed Gill repeatedly. Gill tried to push himself away, retreated and picked up a golf club. The suspect knocked Gill to the ground before returning to the cash register, which he could not open. He then took something from a shelf and walked out of the store in the same direction from which he approached. Gill died of his wounds minutes later.

Dyer said detectives are reviewing about 51 days of video from the store to determine whether the killer had been in the business before. They are also looking at video from other stores, canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses, conducting parole and probation searches in the area and asking school resource officers whether they know the suspect. Detectives are still trying to make out three white letters on the suspect’s hat as well as stitching on the backpack for more evidence.

Grewal said the Sikh community is fearful because the slaying took place in the aftermath of an attack on another 68-year-old Sikh man on Dec. 26. The victim, wearing a turban, was assaulted on Brunswick Avenue near Shields Avenue, west of Highway 99, about 7 a.m. He was attacked by two men who got out of a car and began shouting at him. He sustained a broken collarbone, cuts on his head and other injuries. A $12,000 reward is offered in that case.

“The Sikh community is anxious and to some degree afraid to venture out,” Grewal said.

Anyone with information about the crimes is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 559-498-STOP.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/crime/article53423305.html#storylink=cpy