Men charged with felony assault and hate crimes in beating of Bay Area Sikh man

(By Ben Poston of LA Times)

October 14 2016

Contra Costa County prosecutors charged a pair of Texas men Friday with two counts of felony assault and hate crimes for beating a Sikh man and cutting off his hair in the Bay Area city of Richmond, last month.

Chase Bryan Little, 31, of Beaumont, and Colton Tye Leblanc, 24, of Winnie, were charged with assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon. Prosecutors added hate-crime enhancements to both counts.

Maan Singh Khalsa, 41, who wears a turban and maintains his hair and beard unshorn as part of his Sikh faith, was attacked Sept. 25.

Sikh leaders said the attack was a hate-motivated crime directed at Khalsa’s religious beliefs and ethnicity. During the attack, Khalsa’s attackers yelled, “Cut his hair, cut his … hair!” then used a knife to chop off a fistful of his hair, according to Sikh leaders.

Richmond police arrested Little and another man but determined that the other man did not take part in the attack and will not face charges, according the prosecutors.

According to the district attorney’s office, Khalsa was stopped at a red light in Richmond, about half a mile from his home, on the night of the attack.

A white Ford F-150, which was occupied by at least five men, pulled up alongside and beer cans were thrown at Khalsa’s car, authorities said.

Khalsa was again stopped for a red light at the next intersection when two occupants of the truck got out and ran toward his car, authorities said.

The two men repeatedly punched Khalsa in the face through an open window while he was seated inside his vehicle, the district attorney’s office said. Khalsa’s turban was knocked off during the barrage. The assailants then began pulling his hair.

While yelling obscenities, the assailants forced Khalsa’s head down and cut a significant portion of his hair, prosecutors said.

Portions of the attack were overheard and recorded by a California Highway Patrol dispatcher who was trying to determine Khalsa’s location, they said.

After the attack, Khalsa drove to a gas station where he waited for paramedics, authorities said.

He suffered a swollen black eye, numerous damaged teeth and several knife wounds to his left hand, which led to an infection that promped the amputation of his little finger at the first knuckle.

Khalsa, who is a U.S. citizen, has been living with his family in Contra Costa County for seven years.

He works as an information technology specialist for the Social Security Administration as well as a certified caregiver for the elderly.

The attack and other assaults across the U.S. have sparked fear within the large Sikh community in Richmond.

In 2012, six Sikh worshipers were killed when a neo-Nazi walked into a temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and opened fire.

Little is out on bail, with a pending court date of Nov. 21; a bench warrant will be issued for Leblanc’s arrest, prosecutors said.