On April 29, 2020, Lakhwant Singh–a Sikh American husband and father–was working at his store in Lakewood, Colorado when he was brutally attacked by a customer.
The attacker, Eric Breemen, entered the store Mr. Singh owns with his wife, and began harassing the couple: he damaged numerous items within the store, shouted profanity, and told the Singhs multiple times to “go back to your country.” The Singhs repeatedly asked Breemen to leave; when he finally did, Mr. Singh went outside to the store’s parking lot to take a photo of Breemen’s license plate in order to report the harassment. Breemen then used his vehicle to ram Mr. Singh, throwing him several feet across the parking lot. Afterward, Breemen went on a crime spree resulting in two additional assaults before he was arrested on April 30. Upon his arrest, Breemen referred to Mr. Singh as an “older Arab” while recounting the attack to the arresting officers. At the time of these attacks, Breemen was on bond for other criminal offenses.
Mr. Singh retained the Sikh Coalition to provide free legal support and push the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to charge Breemen with a hate crime. On June 1, the Sikh Coalition sent a letter to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and the Lakewood Police Department pushing for an investigation into felony hate crime charges. On June 23, the Sikh Coalition launched an advocacy campaign calling on Sikh Americans and allies to demand #JusticeForLakhwant–more than 2,600 people across the nation took action using our online tool to email District Attorney Peter Weir and Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul about this case. On June 24, the Sikh Coalition submitted a letter signed by 29 civil rights organizations, interfaith groups, gurdwaras, and other institutions backing our demands to investigate bias in this case. Throughout this advocacy campaign, the Sikh Coalition also worked to secure media coverage around the need for a hate crime charge in local, national, and international outlets.
On July 21, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office announced that they added a hate crime charge to Breemen’s case; as of now, the case continues to move forward in court. The Sikh Coalition remains in communication with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office as the criminal case proceeds and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office as they continue their investigation.
WHY IT MATTERS
Hate crimes damage the lives of survivors, their families, and the communities in which they live. Thus, when Sikhs are targeted because of hate, it is imperative that law enforcement authorities have the cultural competency to investigate these incidents and document them as hate crimes, and prosecutors pursue hate crime charges.
No community should ever be the target of bigotry. The Sikh Coalition will continue to provide free legal support to Mr. Singh and his family in this case, and other Sikhs who are targeted in bias-related incidents.