An Indian American small businessman, who was brutally attacked late night April 29 outside his Lakewood, Colorado, liquor store, remains hospitalized six weeks later, still unable to move.
Lakhwant Singh, 61, owner of Two Angels Liquor, was in the store that evening doing inventory. His son, Onkar Singh, told India-West that a white male, later identified as 37-year-old Eric Breemen of Denver, came into the store, cursing, shouting and throwing things to the ground, breaking them.
“My mother said she didn’t understand what was happening. She was worried about all the cleanup she would have to do,” said Onkar Singh.
Lakhwant Singh wears his religiously-mandated articles of faith, including a turban and beard. Onkar Singh said his mother, Manjit Kaur, told him that Breemen called her husband an “Arab.”
In a press release, the Sikh Coalition reported that Breemen, a white male, told Lakhwant Singh “go back to your country.”
Breemen then left the store and got into a black sedan. Lakhwant Singh followed him outside to get a picture of his license plate; Breemen accelerated his car towards Lakhwant Singh.
An affidavit released by the Jefferson County, Colorado, District Attorney’s office notes that “the victim attempted to get out of the way of the vehicle but was struck and was rolled over by both front and rear tires of the vehicle.”
Onkar Singh said his father suffered a spinal fracture, eight broken ribs, a broken pelvis, a broken arm and shoulder, and extensive nerve damage. He has since had multiple surgeries, but cannot move and speaks with difficulty.
Lakhwant Singh now needs full-time care and has been moved to a rehabilitation facility. Onkar Singh told India-West it will be at least a month before his father is able to return home.
The Singhs have lived in Colorado since 1998 and have owned the store since 2014. Onkar Singh said nothing like this has happened before. Manjit Kaur, who watched her husband being attacked, is still traumatized by the incident. A customer had called 911.
Breemen was intoxicated at the time of the incident, according to the affidavit. Police caught him two days later in a Safeway parking lot. He has been charged with first degree assault and is being held on a bond of $50,000, according to his record in the Jefferson County inmate locator. A prior charge of jumping bail means he cannot be released on bond.
Breemen’s preliminary hearing date is scheduled for July 24. He told police upon his arrest that Singh had threatened him with a large rock.
The Sikh Coalition is advocating for hate crime charges to be added in the case against Breemen. In a June 1 letter to Jefferson County Assistant District Joseph Wasserman, Amrith Kaur Aakre, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, wrote: “There is little doubt that Defendant’s violent acts towards Mr. Singh and his wife are related to the fact that the Singhs have dark skin and are ethnically Indian, as well as the fact that Mr. Singh wears a turban and maintains a beard – all of which are attributable to his race, religion, ancestry and national origin, amongst other protected categories, pursuant to Colorado’s bias motivated crimes statue.”
Aakre noted that Breemen referred to Singh as “some Arab guy.”
“This is especially cold and callous now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Mr. Singh is not allowed to have visitors and spent the last month in the hospital recovering entirely alone and without comfort due to hospital safety standards and policies, and will continue to recover alone in his rehabilitation center,” said Aakre in her letter.
Running people over with a car “has become synonymous with terroristic and ideological attacks over recent years, especially as they promote nationalist or political movements,” wrote Aakre, acting that it was clear Breemen acted with racial animus.
“No one deserves to be targeted because of who they are, and I hope that sharing my story sheds further light on the hatred and bigotry faced by Sikhs and others across the country,” said Lakhwant Singh in a press statement released by the Sikh Coalition. “Colorado is my home, and I urge the authorities in charge of my attacker’s case to demonstrate, through action, that crimes rooted in hate will not be tolerated.”
Onkar Singh told India-West: “I don’t think punitive measures help. I want to help (Breemen) understand that he made a mistake.”
He noted that the suspect lives in his car; thus, restitution is unlikely to be possible.