A family of four Sikhs were shot dead inside their apartment complex in West Chester, a suburb in Ohio’s Cincinnati. They were found dead on Sunday night, triggering an alarm across the Sikh community based in the locality. The West Chester Township police has launched a probe into the attack, which is as of now being suspected as an act of a “hate crime”.
Locals in neighbouring apartments said they heard a barrage of gunfire, which forced them to rush out on the streets. However, the alleged killer had fled from the spot. A search operation has been launched to hunt down the accused.
The deceased, said West Chester Police Chief Joel Herzog, are all adults. They have been identified as family patriarch – Hakikat Panag, his wife Paramjit Kaur, his adult daughter Shalinder Kaur, and his sister-in-law Amarjit Kaur.
Jasminder Singh, priest of the local Sikh temple, expressed dismay and shock over the demise of the family. The deaths, he said, has devastated the entire community and left in a state of shock and fear. “It is a huge loss for us,” Jasminder said, adding that the family used to regularly attend the prayers and be involved in community activities.
Satinder Bharaj is the past president of the executive board and a board member. He washed dishes with him at the gurudwara Sunday.
“Hakikat was very friendly. He had moved here five years ago from New Jersey,” Bharaj said. “And he was happy here. Like many Sikhs, he lives five minutes away from the gurudwara.”
Bharaj got a call at midnight with the news.
“My initial reaction was disbelief followed by shock. I cannot believe this was happen to an ordinary, decent, middle class, nice, simple family, “ said Bharaj.
“I cannot imagine what he is going through. I know that in the coming days, the community will rally and we will do whatever we can for the family,” he said.
Bharaj said this is the third homicide the Sikh community has faced in the past two years.
“We hope these deaths are not forgotten,” he said. “This is a sad day for the Sikh community.”
Police Chief Joel Herzog has, however, ruled out a threat to the entire Sikh community based in West Chester. He has assured of strengthening security in the region, and cracking down on the perpetrator of the homicide at the earliest.