Two suspects accused of severely beating an Indian American tech worker in Richmond, Calif., last fall, will stand trial on felony assault charges with hate crime enhancements, ruled Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Daniella Douglas April 24.
Chase Little and Colton LeBlanc, both oil refinery workers from Texas, are accused of attacking Maan Singh Khalsa, an information technology specialist with the Social Security Administration, on the evening of Sept. 25, 2016. Both suspects pleaded not guilty last November. (See earlier India-West story here.)
Khalsa told India-West that on the night of the attack, he was waiting at a stoplight on Hilltop Mall Drive in Richmond. A truck pulled up beside him with five white males, one who reportedly threw a beer can into his car. At the next intersection, Khalsa said he got out of his car, took the can and threw it back into the truck through an open window, and then took off in his car.
But at the next traffic light, Little, Albarado and another unidentified man got out of the truck and started punching Khalsa through his rolled-down window. They punched Khalsa in the eye. As he put out his hand to defend himself, one of the assailants knifed Khalsa on his hand, slicing open his index, ring and pinky finger and injuring his palm.
One of the assailants yelled “cut his hair,” according to police reports, and Little reportedly chopped off a handful of Khalsa’s religiously-mandated unshorn hair. The Sikh American suffered a black eye, and later had to have his pinky finger amputated.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve such unprovoked hatred,” said the victim.
But Dustin Albarado, who was also in the car on the night of the attack, testified April 24 that Khalsa had yelled obscenities at the men, calling them “stupid ass punks.”
Little’s defense attorney, Julia Jayne, said Khalsa struck Little with his car. It was only then that the physical altercation took place, she said, adding that Little acted in self-defense, according to a report by KQED News.
Khalsa himself testified in court that no racial slurs had been uttered during the prolonged beating, and no reference had been made to his ethnicity by his attackers. Defense attorneys for both the suspects raised this point several times in an attempt to get the hate crime enhancements dropped.
But Contra Costa County Assistant District Attorney Simon O’Connell said outside court that no verbal slurs are needed to prove a hate crime. Grabbing Khalsa’s hair, and shouting “cut his [expletive] hair,” were enough to warrant hate crime charges, he said.
O’Connell told India-West last October that, from the minute police took on the case, “it has always been looked at as a hate crime.”