Gurpreet Singh Gosal

Trial opens with conflicting accounts of killing at Sikh festival

Published: Thursday, May. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 30, 2013 - 8:49 am

They came with three handguns and 250 rounds of ammunition "armed for a massacre," the prosecutor said.

When they finished shooting, one man was dead at a festival of sport put on by the Sacramento Sikh Society at their temple on Bradshaw and Gerber roads in unincorporated southeast Sacramento.

One of the two purported gunmen, Gurpreet Singh Gosal, went on trial for murder Wednesday in the Aug. 31, 2008, shooting death of Parmjit Pamma Singh and for the attempted murder of Sahib Jeet Singh, another man who was struck by a bullet.

"This was a cold, calculated murder," Deputy District Attorney Anthony Ortiz told a Sacramento Superior Court jury in his opening statement.

If it was the willful and premeditated killing as outlined by the prosecutor, it wasn't carried out by the man on trial, defense attorney David W. Dratman countered in his opening presentation.

"Gurpreet Gosal did not intend to shoot anyone, and he did not shoot anyone," Dratman said.

According to both lawyers' opening statements, as well as some of the witness testimony that came out during the first day of the trial, much of the intrigue in the case appears to be centered around the man who accompanied Gosal to the Sikh sports complex five years ago.

His name is Amandeep Singh Dhami. By all accounts, Dhami is the person who had some kind of a dispute with the slain Parmjit Singh. One witness, Manwinder Singh Mavi, testified Wednesday that he overheard Parmjit Singh arguing during a telephone conversation with Dhami the night before the shooting.

Authorities have not described the nature of their disagreement, nor did any details emerge in the courtroom Wednesday that might have shed some light on it.

In his testimony, Mavi said he saw Dhami approach Parmjit on the cricket field about 1:15 p.m. the day of the killing and under a clear blue sky pull out a handgun and begin firing. Along with another witness, Mavi said he also saw Gosal accompany Dhami and pull out a handgun and shoot it amid the chaos of the moment.

A third witness testified he helped chase down Gosal and hold him for the authorities.

While the group of 10 or so men who captured Gosal whacked him around with cricket bats and field hockey sticks until sheriff's deputies arrived, Amandeep Singh Dhami managed to get away from the five or six angry men who were similarly detaining him, and Mavi told jurors Wednesday how that happened.

"We had him," Mavi testified, through a Punjabi interpreter. But while they were holding him, "these ladies came and said, 'Let him go. Are you going to kill him? Let him go. Let him go,' " Mavi said. "So we let him go, and he stood there."

Then, "There was a lady who gave him a key, to Amandeep," Mavi testified. "There was a white Acura. She gave him the key right in from of me. I saw it. She tried to hide it."

Mavi said the men holding Dhami couldn't stop him from then getting into the car and driving off because "it happened so fast."

Dhami has been charged in the case, but investigators were never able to bring him into custody. Authorities believe he is now living in India.

In his opening statement, deputy DA Ortiz said that Amandeep Dhami came from a "very wealthy family" once prominent in the region's Sikh community. In his time, Amandeep's father, Balbir Singh Dhami, owned a piece of a Stockton Boulevard truck stop. According to a still-pending lawsuit Parmjit Singh's survivors filed against the Sacramento Sikh Society, Balbir Dhami also served on the board of directors of the Bradshaw Temple.

Along with his truck and temple business, Balbir Dhami dabbled in a high-level cocaine trafficking conspiracy that he ran in part through his trucking company, according to a 2008 federal indictment on which he was ultimately convicted in April 2010.

Balbir Dhami never made it to his sentencing, because on the morning of May 19, 2011, gunmen entered his Marla Way home in the North Laguna Creek neighborhood in the city of Sacramento and shot him to death. His killing is still unsolved.

As for Gurpreet Gosal, authorities still want him to answer for Parmjit Singh's killing. Ortiz charged that Gosal flew into Sacramento the day before the killing from where he lived in Indianapolis. He had no sooner landed, the prosecutor said, than he went to the Gun Room in Elk Grove and paid $157.91 for the 250 rounds of ammunition recovered from a black backpack found underneath the black Lincoln Navigator authorities say he and Dhami rode into the Sikh games for the purpose of doing some shooting.

Once they pulled into the parking lot, they got out of the car and went "straight to who they were looking for," Ortiz said.

"These two people showed up armed for a massacre but fortunately shot only two people," Ortiz said.

Photos taken by a Punjabi journalist at the scene showed that the late Parmjit Pamma Singh attended the sports event with a gun of his own, pictured next to him where he fell after a bullet fatally traversed his body left to right, just above the waist. The pistol disappeared before deputies arrived and was never recovered, defense attorney Dratman said.

"There's a lot more to this story," Dratman told the jury.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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