RICHMOND, Calif. -- Prosecutors in the San Francisco Bay Area have filed hate crime charges against two men they say attacked a Sikh man with a pocket knife last month, officials said Friday.
Authorities said the men removed Maan Singh Khalsa's turban and cut off a fistful of his hair. Khalsa's religion mandates that he not cut his hair.
Khalsa's finger will need to be amputated because of an infection to a cut he received while fighting off his attackers.
About 30 faith-based and advocacy groups sent a letter to the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office Thursday calling for hate crime charges in the attack. Chase Little, 31, and Colton Leblanc, 24, have been charged with felony assault and hate crimes. A bench warrant will be issued for Leblanc. Little is free on bail, but it was not immediately known if he has an attorney.
A man who was previously arrested, Dustin Albarado. 25, will not be charged, said Deputy District Attorney Simon O'Connell.
Khalsa, 41, said the assailants violently targeted his Sikh faith.
"The charges are the first step to addressing violence and bigotry, which plague communities across the United States," Khalsa said in a statement.
Authorities said Khalsa was at a Richmond intersection on Sept. 25 when a man in a truck threw a beer can at his car. At an intersection farther up the road, the assailants got out of the truck and assaulted Khalsa through his open car window, knocking off his Sikh turban and hitting his face repeatedly, according to the Sikh Coalition, which has been advocating on his behalf.
They shouted expletives at him, pulled his head out of the window and cut a fistful of his religiously-mandated unshorn hair with a knife. Khalsa sustained injuries to his fingers, hands, eye and teeth, the coalition said.
"I trusted the district attorney's office to do the right thing and they came through," said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. "We do not condone this in Richmond and we don't condone it in America."