Washington: Gurmej Atwal, one of the two
elderly Sikhs shot by unidentified assailants during their
afternoon walk in Elk Grove township of California, has
succumbed to his injuries, six weeks after the incident which
police are investigating as a possible hate crime.
78-year-old Atwal and his neighbourhood friend Surinder
Singh, 65, were shot on March 4, sending shock waves among the
Sikh community in the region. Singh had died on the spot.
Atwal had been on a ventilator and unable to talk since
the incident, which took place in the Sacramento suburb of Elk
Grove. He died in hospital at 2.00 pm local time on Friday.
"He`s no more," Atwal`s son Kamaljit Singh said. "First
the kidneys went off, then the lungs and then brain. ... He
was shot in the upper right chest, one bullet went straight to
his lungs and the other to his pancreas, liver and
intestines," he was quoted as saying by `The Modesto Bee`, a
"My dad was going to be a key witness" in the shooting.
But "from day one, he could not speak a word," Kamaljit said.
Darshan Mundy, Public Relations Officer for the
Sacramento Sikh Temple, said the community "is in mourning
after learning of Mr Atwal`s passing."
"Mr Atwal fought valiantly to recover after the shooting.
We all hoped that he would be able to overcome the critical
injuries. Now, we must rely on our faith as we support the
family in making it through this difficult time," Mundy said.
Atwal is survived by 10 grandchildren, his wife
Balbir Kaur, daughter Talvinder Kaur and sons Kamaljit Singh,
Balkar Singh and Sarbjit Singh. He lived with Kamaljit and his
family at their home in Elk Grove.
Born and raised in Punjab, Atwal moved to the US
"We all hoped that he would recover and thus give us the
clue, but it is very unfortunate that he died," said
Gurjatinder Singh Randhawa, from the NRI Front USA.
The Sikh Community and a number of community
organisations have come together to offer a reward of over USD
42,000 for information leading to the arrest of those
responsible for the shooting.
Crime Alert Sacramento is offering an additional USD
10,000 reward if it is determined to be a hate crime.
According to family members, the victims were not robbed
and had no enemies. However, they were wearing turbans at the
time of shooting and had thick beards, leading police and
community leaders to suspect that the attack was a hate crime.