[Photo Source: Inderjit Singh Mukker, the Sikh Indian American businessman who was the victim of a racially-motivated assault Sept. 9. (Sikh Coalition photo)]
By: India West Staff
WHEATON, Ill. — A suburban Chicago teenager charged with a hate crime after yelling racial slurs and punching Inderjit Singh Mukker, a Sikh Indian American man from Darien, Illinois, last year, has been sentenced to two years’ probation, according to an AP report. The DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office said Mar. 9 that the teen also was ordered to pay nearly $5,000 in restitution and perform 200 hours of community service, including by serving the Sikh community, after pleading guilty to a felony hate crime charge.
Investigators say the Sept. 8 incident happened during a road-rage incident in Darien. The teen, who was 17 at the time, was arrested after yelling racial slurs at the 53-year-old victim and punching him in the face. The teen’s name has not been released because of his age.
Prosecutors initially charged the teen with felony aggravated battery before adding the hate crime charge.
Mukker had related the brutal attack in an earlier interview with India-West (see earlier interview here: http://bit.ly/1i1SkdK).
“I have lived in this country for 28 years. I never expected racism to happen to me,” Mukker had told India-West.
Mukker said he was driving from his home to a nearby Indian grocery store on the evening of the attack when a car that had been tailgating him pulled up in front of him.
The victim said he was in the right lane, and the assailant, who had been in the left lane, pulled into the lane, completely cutting him off and blocking him. Mukker stopped his car when he saw the assailant getting out of his car.
“He started punching me repeatedly like a rubber ball,” said Mukker emotionally, noting that he spent a day in the hospital being treated for lacerations and bruises to his face. He lost consciousness during the attack and was treated at the scene of the crime, as well as the hospital.
As the assailant reached into Mukker’s car and repeated his blows, he yelled: “Bin Laden, why are you driving this Prius? Go back to your own country,” according to Mukker, a father of two who manages several rental properties and also drives for Uber.
Mukker, who was alone in his car, said the young offender kept repeating his racist sentiments during the attack. The victim said he has lived in Darien since 2006 but has never felt any element of racism prior to the attack. “My neighborhood is very peaceful. Everyone is friends with one another,” he said.
Darien Police Chief Ernest Brown told India-West in the interview that the racist attack was without precedent. “I’ve been the police chief here for four years; this is the first incident that we have classified as a hate crime.”
Brown said the attack began as a road rage incident but escalated into a hate crime, adding that he was in contact with the Sikh Coalition and the Department of Justice and was looking into training for his officers in regards to the handling of hate crimes against minorities.
Harsimran Kaur, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, said in a press statement: “We believe Mr. Mukker was targeted and assaulted because of his Sikh religious appearance, race or national origin.”
PTI adds from New York: The teen had pleaded guilty in December last year to hitting Mukker just days before the 9/11 anniversary.
DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin announced that the teen will also have to undergo counseling as deemed necessary by the Probation Department.
“My office has zero tolerance for crimes based on hatred or prejudices. Not only have the defendant’s outrageous actions on Sept. 8, taken an emotional, physical and even financial toll on Mukker that continues to this very day, his actions also have shaken the entire community,” Berlin said.
Police located the defendant, who had fled the scene, at his home. When officers attempted to arrest him, he had resisted and even punched a police officer in the face.
The Sikh Coalition said ever since Mukker was “viciously assaulted,” there has been a “meteoric rise” in hate crimes against Sikh-Americans as xenophobic political speech has increased.
“Charging the assailant with a hate crime is an important step towards addressing the broader epidemic. We hope that the 200 hours of community service are spent with the Sikh-American community in an effort to further educate people about the community,” the Sikh Coalition legal director Harsimran Kaur said.
This story was originally published on India West.