A Sikh man is dead after he allegedly refused to sell his assailant cigarettes. He was the third person of Indian origin to be killed in California in less than a week, and his death comes amid an especially deadly and dangerous week for Indians living in the U.S.
The attack took place at a gas station in Modesto, California on May 5. Jagjeet Singh, 32, was working alongside fellow clerk Sukhwinder Singh, learning his new job. While Jagjeet had been in the U.S. for at least 18 months, he had only been working at Hatch Food and Gas for less than a month, reports KTXL.
Sukhwinder described to the police that a customer entered the store and asked to purchase a pack of cigarettes. Jagjeet, doing his job as he had been instructed, asked the customer for identification. "'Show your ID. No have ID good.' Told the guy … 'no good … so no buy cigarette,'" Sukhwinder told police of the encounter.
Jagjeet denied the customer the cigarettes over an unacceptable ID, and the customer took it personally.
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The events were recorded on the store's closed-circuit TV camera system. NDTV reports that the customer hurled a slew of racist epithets and curse words at the store clerks, and warned that he'd return. Around 30 minutes later, just before midnight, the customer's black car was outside the gas station again.
Jagjeet was in the process of closing the store when his assailant stabbed him, leaving him to die.
"Paramedics responded because an employee had collapsed and they thought this to be a medical issue. When they arrived on scene they found that this employee has actually been stabbed," said Officer Eric Schuller of the Modesto Police.
Jagjeet fought for his life for hours in the hospital, but ultimately died.
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Police have yet to determine a motive for the attack and the killer remains on the loose.
Indian Americans see a disturbing trend in the attack. Friends of Jagjeet see a tragedy.
"He's a hard worker, hard-working nice guy," said Monica Rodriguez, one of Jagjeet's co-workers. "No problems, very calm, everything, he never was threatening, never yelled at a customer ... It's just a very sad situation what happened to him because nobody deserves that over something so small."
Jagjeet is remembered as a husband and father who was working hard to support his family back in India. Now, his family in the U.S. will work alongside rights groups and the police to discover the identity of Jagjeet's killer.