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Gurpreet Singh Gosal is accused of a fatal shooting at a Sikh sports festival in 2008.

Defense suggests victim fatally shot himself at Sikh sports festival

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 4, 2013 - 8:03 am

A defense lawyer suggested Monday that the man who was fatally shot at a Sikh sports festival five years ago may have fired the fatal bullet himself.

Prosecutors insist defendant Gurpreet Singh Gosal is responsible for the Aug. 31, 2008, killing of Parjit Pamma Singh. But defense attorney David W. Dratman, during his cross-examination of the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy in the case, revealed his own theory of how the death occurred.

In questioning Dr. Elizabeth Albers, Dratman reached behind his back with his left hand and acted as if he had pulled a handgun from his rear waistband and held it to his side.

"Have you considered that?" Dratman asked Albers, while describing his actions and comparing the trajectory he had established in his demonstration with the actual path of the single shot from a handgun that traversed Singh's body from left to right and slightly front to back.

Albers said she had considered the possibility that Parjit Singh inflicted his own fatal bullet in the shooting at the Sacramento Sikh Society sports festival at the Bradshaw Temple near Bradshaw and Gerber roads. About 400 to 500 spectators attended.

Furthermore, Albers testified, she discussed it with a Sacramento sheriff's detective who sat in on the autopsy. She said the investigator dismissed the possibility Singh inadvertently shot himself to death during an argument at the festival with Gosal's partner, Amandeep Singh Dhami, who authorities believe has since fled the country.

"It was not considered a very likely possibility," Albers testified. She said "it was the detective's opinion" that the bullet came "from another person" besides Parjit Singh.

The prosecution has identified Gosal, 28, as the gunman in his murder trial now under way in Sacramento Superior Court before Judge Greta Curtis Fall.

Witnesses have testified they saw Gosal firing a gun the day of the killing, but they've also identified Dhami as firing a handgun – and directly at the slain Parjit Singh. Investigators also have confirmed it was Dhami and not Gosal, who had just flown in from Indianapolis the night before the killing, who had an ongoing dispute with the victim that led to deadly gunfire.

Authorities say Dhami and Singh had a problem going back to the week before, a disagreement that broke out between the two at a nightclub in San Jose.

According to testimony at trial, Parjit Singh, in a telephone conversation the night before the festival, was engaged in a loud cursing match with a man believed to be Dhami on the other end.

While no witnesses so far have said they saw Parjit Singh firing any shots, a handgun was pictured lying on the ground next to him in photographs taken shortly after the shooting by a Punjabi journalist covering the festival.

Parjit Singh's gun disappeared by the time sheriff's deputies arrived, so no testing could be conducted on it to see if it had been fired the afternoon of the killing. Making forensic investigation even more difficult was the fact that no bullet was recovered from the victim's body.

The defense has focused from the outset on the near-vertical trajectory of the death wound that went through Singh's body from side to side at a level about 40 inches off the ground. Witnesses have said they saw Gosal firing in a downward motion. One of the witnesses who testified last week said he saw Dhami pull the gun out of his pants and shoot Parjit Singh.

On Monday, another man who was shot and seriously wounded at the same time Parjit Singh was killed testified that he saw Dhami and Gosal approach him and the other victim just before the gunfire erupted.

Sahib Jeet Singh said he was sitting in a chair beneath a tent covering, watching a cricket match, when he heard a friend of his "speaking loudly with somebody." He identified one of the men his friend was yelling at as Dhami. "The other one," Sahib Singh said, "is sitting right there" – in defendant Gosal's chair.

"I don't remember what they were saying," Sahib Jeet Singh said. "I just remember they were being loud," in Punjabi, and "talking in anger."

Sahib Singh said he thought he saw a gun in Dhami's hands, but didn't see him fire it.

He did not say that he heard the shots, only that he felt one enter his side. The bullet fractured Sahib Singh's spine. He said he spent a month in the hospital and still suffers constant pain in his feet and back, especially at night, although he is able to walk in a slow, uneven fashion.

The trial continues today.

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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