Yet again a Sikh is shot, mistaken for a Muslim
- In the immediate aftermath of the September Martyrdoms, a Sikh filling
station owner in Mesa (a suburb of Phoenix) was shot dead by a deranged
man seeking revenge upon Muslims and mistaking him for a Muslim because
of his turban. Once again the reactionary fools have aimed for the wrong
man in their crimes. Yet another Phoenix-area Sikh has been shot. Fortunately
he is expected to live. The following article, attributed to Arizona
Republic reporter Susan Carroll, appeared on page B1 of the Wednesday,
21 May, 2003 edition of The Arizona Republic.
SIKH SHOOTING CALLED HATE CRIME
Man Wounded In Unprovoked Attack In North Phoenix
A Sikh man was shot Monday night in north Phoenix in what authorities are
calling an unprovoked hate crime.
Avtar Singh Cheira, a 52-year-old truck driver who lives in Phoenix, was
shot twice by men in a red pickup near Ninth Street and Bell Road, police
said. The Indian immigrant, who has lived in the United States for 18 years,
was wearing a turban as he waited for his family to pick him up from work
about 9:20 P.M.
"I heard that voice say, 'Go back to where you belong to,' and at the same
time I heard that shot," Cheira said Tuesday at a Valley hospital, where he
winced with pain each time he moved his legs.
Cheira was hit twice in the legs with bullets from a small-caliber gun.
His youngest son found him, scooped him up and waited for an ambulance.
Police have no suspects.
"There is no doubt this is a hate crime," said Phoenix Police Detective
Tony Morales. "To think that this kind of ignorance is still out there
and can fuel such an ugly racist action is just appalling."
The shooting is the second in the Valley targeting a member of the Sikh
community since the September 11, 2001, attacks.
On September 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi, 49, was fatally shot at his
Mesa gas station. Police believe his killer mistakenly believed Sodhi
was an Arab and shot him simply because of the turban he wore as part of
his Sikh faith. The suspect, Frank Silva Roque, 43, is scheduled for
trial on June 24.
Harjit Sodhi, Balbir Singh Sodhi's cousin, said he suspected Cheira also
was a victim of "mistaken identity."
"There is prejudice against people from Iraq or Afghanistan," said Sodhi,
a 38-year-old pharmacy technician. "They consider Sikhs who have beards
and wear turbans are maybe the same people.
"Whatever the case may be, it's a great country. We need protection for
everyone. Everyone should be safe."
Police have "very little" information about the shooting. Anyone with
information is asked to contact the Phoenix Police Department, Federal
Bureau of Investigation or the Silent Witness program at (602)261-8600.
All calls are confidential.