NEW YORK: Jagjeet Singh, 32, a Sikh man working in a convenience store, was stabbed to death by an unidentified person allegedly after an altercation over cigarettes, in Modesto, California, Thursday evening.
Jagjeet Singh was a clerk at 800 W. Hatch Road, where the Hatch Food and Gas convenience store is located. He came to the US 18 months ago from Kapurthala in Punjab, and stayed with his sister and brother-in-law in Modesto, according to reports.
The Modesto Bee reported a co-worker called 911 to report a medical emergency. EMS workers who arrived at the scene determined the employee had been stabbed, said officer Eric Schuller, a Modesto Police Department spokesman.
Schuller said the employee was taken to a Modesto hospital, where he died. The 911 call came in just before midnight.
Schuller said the stabbing took place at 800 W. Hatch Road, which is the location of Hatch Food & Gas. Schuller said additional information about the homicide was not available.
Police ask anyone with information about this homicide to call Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636.
Singh reportedly had an altercation with one of the customers who came to buy cigarettes on Friday, FOX40 reported.
Sukhwinder Singh, another clerk at the store, said the victim got into an altercation with a customer after the latter refused to show his ID after asking to buy cigarettes. Jagjeet Singh refused to sell cigarettes.
The man then reportedly left the store in a hurry, mouthing racist abuses and warning Jagjeet of dire consequences. The entire sequence was captured by a CCTV camera installed in the store premises, said the report.
The customer then returned angry, 30 minutes later, and took Jagjeet’s life when he was about to close the store, Singh said.
Jagjeet was soon rushed to the hospital where he struggled for his life for 9 hours before finally succumbing to his injuries, the report said.
Modesto police are yet to determine the motive behind the attack and there is no official word about the killer.
“He’s a hard worker, hard-working nice guy. No problems, very calm, everything, he never was threatening, never yelled at a customer,” said Monica Rodriguez, another clerk at the store, was quoted as saying.
“It’s just a very sad situation what happened to him because nobody deserves that over something so small,” Rodriguez said. Friends at the store say he was a husband and father who had only been on the payroll in California for one month “in hopes of supporting his family back in India.”
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke to Indian ambassador in the US Navtej Sarna over the incident, reported PTI.
Meanwhile, Rights group The Sikh Coalition said it has urged the Modesto Police Department to leave no stone unturned in their investigation into the killing, including examining the possibility of this being a hate crime.
Jagjeet Singh’s death was the fourth case in a week involving unnatural deaths of Indian-origin individuals in the US.
On Wednesday night, Indian American Naren Prabhu, a Silicon Valley technology executive and his wife Raynah Sequeira Prabhu, were shot at their home in San Jose, California, by their daughter’s ex-boyfriend, Mirza Tatlic, 24, who was eventually shot dead in a standoff with the police.
On Thursday, a 32-year-old doctor, Ramesh Kumar, was found shot dead under mysterious circumstances in a car near Detroit, Michigan.