A young Louisiana man rammed his truck through the front window of The Best Stop convenience store March 3, mistakenly believing the store owners were Muslim.
The Best Stop 4, in Denham Springs, Louisiana, is owned by Sikhs, who were not identified by local law enforcement. India-West has learned that the store is owned by Indian American Sakatar Singh, whose nephew Harjot Singh was at the store at the time of the crime. Neither Singh had responded to calls for comment by press time.
According to the Livingston Parish, Louisiana Sheriff’s Department, on the night of the incident, Chad Horsley, 27, drove into the shop as it was closing. He then stole the convenience store’s ATM machine. When a witness attempted to intervene, Horsley pulled out a gun, but then fled the scene. The witness called police.
In a bizarre twist, Horsley had entered the store five nights earlier, telling a clerk that he worked for the Sheriff’s Office. Horsley told the clerk that he suspected him of dealing drugs at the store and said he would be back later that night to search the place. Horsley warned the clerk “to make sure no one was around,” according to the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Department, which immediately put out a bulletin to find the man who was impersonating an officer.
After Horsley was arrested March 5, he told law enforcement officials he believed the owners were Muslim. “He blamed Muslims for killing his fellow service members overseas. He was also upset that Muslims, in his mind, were having an easier time prospering than he was despite his time in the service,” said Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard in a press statement.
Horsley is a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve
“Horsley did admit to us that he purposefully caused damage to the store,” added Ard. The sheriff noted that Horsley told deputies that he was a Sheriff’s Deputy and produced an East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office commission card. The suspect had been a former Reserve with EBRSO but has no current ties to the agency.
The suspect was charged with hate crimes, simple criminal damage to property, criminal mischief, and false impersonation of a peace officer. He was jailed on a bond of $56,000, but bailed out later that day.
The suspect's father, Samuel Horsley, told The Advocate newspaper that his son is "as far from a racist as they come" and that he was shocked at the allegations. Friends of Horsley’s have also come to his defense on social media, claiming he is “normally a great guy.”
Harjot Singh told The Advocate that the local community has come around to show their support. "Even if it was Muslims, he shouldn't have done that thing," he said, adding: "We're just trying to make a living out of here, that's all we're doing."
The Council on American Islamic Relations said in a March 6 press statement that it “welcomed” the hate crimes charges against Horsley, and called for the suspect to be jailed until his trial. Horsley made bail the day of his arrest.
“We thank local law enforcement officials for their prompt and professional response to this disturbing incident, which is apparently another example of the growing Islamophobia targeting American Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim,” said CAIR national communications director Ibrahim Hooper.
Hooper said CAIR has witnessed “an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president.”