As the U.S. Justice Department got involved in last Friday's shooting of two Sikh grandfathers out on their afternoon stroll through Elk Grove, investigators wait for the surviving victim, Gurmej Atwal, to recover from multiple gunshot wounds so he can be interviewed.
Atwal, 78, remains in stable but critical condition in an intensive care unit. He underwent a second surgery Monday after taking two bullets to the torso.
"Mr. Atwal has been intubated and has been unable to speak, so the information we received has been very limited," Elk Grove police spokesman Christopher Trim said Tuesday. "It depends on how quickly Mr. Atwal heals."
Atwal's son Kamaljit said his father is gradually getting better.
The shootings of Atwal and his friend Surinder Singh, 67, who died on the sidewalk along East Stockton Boulevard, have generated an international outcry, said Sikh civil rights leader Darshan Singh Mundy.
The chief minister for the Indian state of Punjab where Sikhs originate will ask India's prime minister and foreign minister to ask the U.S. government to protect the estimated 500,000 Sikh Americans, about 35,000 of whom live in the Sacramento region, Mundy said.
The U.S. government's already getting involved: The Department of Justice on Tuesday sent Ronald Wakabayashi, Western regional director of its Community Relations Service, to help the traumatized Sikh families cope with the horrific crime.
"I wanted to get here quick because what happened was so ugly," said Wakabayashi, whose job is to help the community access any federal or local resources they may need. "We don't know if it's a hate crime, but it certainly has raised people's anxieties that it is."
Wakabayashi who is not a law enforcement official has met with the victims' families, community leaders and Elk Grove police.
Sacramento U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said he's assured Sikh leaders the FBI is working with Elk Grove police.
"I've offered our assistance with the investigation and prosecution if it turns out to be a hate crime, which is a federal civil rights violation," Wagner said. "I've also reached out to the Sikh community, who feel they may have been targeted, to participate in future events and try to assure them the DOJ is standing with them during this difficult period."
To try to find witnesses, Elk Grove police stopped vehicles Tuesday along East Stockton Boulevard near where the shooting took place.
"We started around 3:15 p.m. and finished around 5:30, which mirrors the time of the shooting," said Trim. "There might have been someone that travels the route on a regular basis that might have seen something and filed it away, not thinking it's a big deal. With police officers out there, it might help them recall those details."
The reward for information leading to an arrest in the case is now over $32,000, said Amar Shergill, an attorney helping coordinate the community effort. To contribute to the reward, contact Shergill at amar@shergilllawfirm. com.
The Local Sikh American Community has pledged $17,200; the Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund, $3,000; the Neighborhood Market Association, $2,000; and the Council on American Islamic Relations, $5,000. In addition, Crime Alert Sacramento has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest if it's determined to be a hate crime.
Anyone who has seen or heard anything that might pertain to the case should call Crime Alert at (916) 443-4357 or the Elk Grove Police Department at (916) 714-5115.