Quadruple murder of Sikh family shocks Ohio

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The Indian American community, and especially Sikhs, in Ohio, and all over the United States are waiting with trepidation, results of ongoing police investigation into a quadruple murder last weekend, which saw a Sikh man, his wife, their daughter, and a visiting relative from India shot down in their apartment in West Chester Township, some 25 miles from Cincinnati.

Though officials have said it is not a hate crime, there is no breakthrough yet in the case, and no suspects are in custody.

Local Sikh leader Jasminder Singh identified the deceased to Cincinnati Enquirer as family patriarch Hakikat Singh Panag, 59, his wife, Paramjit Kaur, 62, their daughter, Shalinder Kaur, 39; and Panag’s sister-in-law, Amarjit Kaur, 58, visiting from India, at the Lakefront at West Chester apartment complex on Wyndtree Drive. Shalinder Kaur was Jasminder Singh’s wife.

WCPO reported the four people died within minutes of each other, according to reports released by Butler County Coroner Lisa Mannix. Her office’s preliminary analysis indicates the victims were all shot to death around 9:50 p.m. on Sunday, April 28.

CNN Reported Jasminder Singh was the one who found the victims last Sunday, and called 911 and told a dispatcher that his wife, mother, father and aunt were down and bleeding.

Reports said Jasminder Singh is also president of the executive committee of the local gurdwara, Guru Nanak Society of Great Cincinnati.

Police who arrived found the four dead as well as evidence that someone was preparing food there when they were killed, township Police Chief Joel Herzog told reporters. There was smoke inside the apartment from the food that got burnt.

Herzog, speaking Monday to the news media, said it didn’t appear any of the four had fired a weapon. He said the shooting appeared ‘isolated’ and he doesn’t believe there’s any danger to the community, reports said.

Daily Mail reported police said there were multiple gunshots fired and that it did not appear to be a murder-suicide.

Police have said they’re trying to figure out a motive in the deaths.

WCPO reported a man, later identified as Jasminder Singh, called 911 at about 9:40 p.m. Sunday and said his wife and three other family members were on the ground and bleeding.

“No one’s talking, no one’s talking,” he shouted.

Singh said over the phone they were bleeding from the head. When the call taker asked if it looked like they had been shot or stabbed, he said he didn’t know and that he had just gotten home. Herzog said police questioned the man as a witness, part of protocol.

A neighbor also called 911 and said there was a man running around the apartment building telling people to call police.

“He’s just banging on the doors screaming, ‘Please call the police, please call the police, please help me,” she said.

Officials in Ohio as well as in India, where the family had roots, have said the killings did not appear to be a hate crime, reported CNN.

India’s minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, said on Twitter that one victim was an Indian national on a visit to the United States, while the others were of Indian origin.

“The matter is under investigation by the police but it is not a hate crime,” she said, citing information she received about the case from India’s ambassador to the United States.

West Chester Township spokeswoman Barbara Wilson also said Wednesday that police have no reason to believe the killings were a hate crime. She did not elaborate.

Though Swaraj said one of the victims was visiting from India, Herzog said it appeared all four lived at the Ohio apartment, along with some children. The children were not at the apartment at the time of the killings, and are safe with relatives, Herzog said.

News reports said three children lived in the apartment, but did not reveal their names, or age.

Daily Mail reported police said there were multiple gunshots fired and that it did not appear to be a murder-suicide.

Jasminder Singh told Cincinnati Enquirer that he last spoke to Panag on Sunday morning as the two drank tea together at the temple.

Singh recalled that Panag told him he did not have to work weekends anymore and ‘seemed happy.’

Another member of the Sikh community, Satinder Bharaj, told the paper Panag had moved to West Chester form New Jersey. He described the patriarch as very friendly and his family as ordinary and middle-class, reported the Mail.

For two days, divers searched a pond located behind the victims’ apartment complex for evidence. Fox 19 Now reported that on Tuesday, a gun was recovered from the water.

Ohio State Highway Patrol conducted an aerial search Sunday night. Multiple agencies from Butler County also assisted with K-9 units, reported WCPO.

Autopsies were performed to determine the causes and manners of the victims’ deaths.

A report in The Hindustan Times said Hakikat Singh and his wife Paramjit Kaur should be visiting family in India now.

Harbans Singh, the brother of Hakikat Singh, told Hindustan Times that the couple had been due to arrive at his village in Punjab on Thursday.

“We are totally in the dark,” said. “Don’t know how it happened and who is behind it? I just know that I Have lost my brother.”

Hakikat Singh moved to the U.S. about 40 years ago, the Times reported. His brother said he “was living happily” and remained on good terms with relatives in friends in India. They had just visited last year.

Jasminder Singh told WCPO they were a “beautiful family.”

He led a prayer service Monday night to remember the family.

“They were very nice people,” said Katwinder Dhaliwal, who attended with his own family, at the service held at the gurudwara. “Middle-class family, you know. Hard workers, do everyday work, come back. … They came from India, had a good future, you know?”

The police have asked the public for help in solving the case.

Herzog said Monday the community was safe but residents should be diligent about their surroundings.

“Reach out to us,” Herzog was quoted as saying. “Anything you see, anything out of the ordinary, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Again, nothing’s too small. It could be the most minute thing that helps us solve this case.”

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