Man injured in attack at lake dies

Investigators seek details in assault, including reports of possible hate crime.

Published: Friday, Jul. 27, 2007 - 3:48 am | Page 2B

Family members gathered at Mercy San Juan Medical Center on Thursday and said goodbye to Satendar Singh.

Singh's four-day struggle to recover from head trauma he suffered Sunday at Lake Natoma ended Thursday afternoon after family members and doctors agreed to end his life support.

The 26-year-old was fatally injured in an assault after what witnesses said was an ugly verbal attack laced with racist and homophobic slurs.

On Thursday, family members took him off life support after the arrival of his aunt and uncle, Suvin and Camie Bhuie, and his grandmother, Chand Singh. They are the closest and most senior members of Singh's large extended family in the area.

Singh died at 4:55 p.m., according to officials.

Singh's father and other immediate family members remain in Fiji, where his body will be sent for burial, Bhuie said.

On Sunday, Singh was picnicking with friends of Fijian and Indian descent at a picnic area near Lake Natoma. According to friends of Singh who were there, a group of Russian-speaking men and women hassled them throughout the day.

That evening, about six men from the group picked a fight, Singh's friends said. Singh was struck once, fell and hit his head.

No one else was injured.

Before the attack, the assailants had directed homophobic slurs at Singh and racial insults at his group, according to the friends.

Friends said Singh is not gay, but they believe he was singled out because he did not have a date that afternoon.

The Bee agreed not to identify the friends because they fear retribution.

Sheriff's homicide investigators have taken the case from state park rangers and plan to reinterview witnesses, said spokesman Sgt. Tim Curran.

Singh's death is the 23rd homicide within the Sheriff's Department's jurisdiction so far this year.

Authorities have not yet been able to identify any members of the group involved in the assault. Curran urged anyone with information about the case to call (916) 874-5115.

Meanwhile, the American River Parkway Safety Coalition is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the attackers.

Reports that the assault may have been a hate crime have galvanized area leaders, said Dan Roth, president of the Gay and Lesbian Center board of directors.

Roth said he is working with members of the region's gay and Pacific Islander communities to quell calls for retribution.

"One group attacking another group never leads to anything positive," Roth said.

Jerry Chong, a civil rights attorney who represents a coalition of Asian and Pacific Islander groups, is working with Roth and other leaders on a meeting to discuss the situation.

"An individual committed this offense, not a group," he said. "We do not want to have any escalation of violence."

While the leaders are calling on their people to remain calm, they also want to see the Sheriff's Department and the District Attorney's Office address the possible hate crime aspects of the assault on Singh.

"It sounds like the slurs were racial as well as homophobic," Roth said. "Law enforcement needs to do its job."

Curran stressed the investigation is ongoing and that authorities have not yet ruled out that a hate crime occurred.

"The hate crime angle absolutely will be looked at," he said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by David Richie



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