Gurpreet Gosal admitted he lied to detectives when he told them he flew into Sacramento the night before the shooting death of Parmjit Pamma Singh to celebrate the sacred Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan with a beloved cousin.
The real reason for the visit, Gosal told jurors in his murder trial Thursday, was to have a meeting with some power players in the regional Sikh community to resolve a disagreement he'd been having with some old running mates in the Bay Area. They'd been harassing him, Gosal said, because he wouldn't help dissuade somebody they beat up from testifying against them.
In his cross-examination of Gosal, Deputy District Attorney Anthony Ortiz savaged Gosal's revised rationale for the Sacramento visit. The prosecutor attacked the defendant-witness as somebody who would lie at a snap to beat a murder charge something Gosal admitted he did as many as 20 times in the investigation into the Aug. 31, 2008, killing of Singh at a Sacramento Sikh Society festival of games.
"I was being charged with something I didn't do," Gosal offered as an explanation.
"So once you're charged, you're not going to tell the entire truth?" Ortiz asked.
"No," Gosal replied.
"Of course not," Ortiz said.
Gosal, who is now 28, is being charged under an aiding and abetting theory of murder. Witnesses have identified the gunman who killed the victim they all called Pamma as a friend of Gosal's named Ahmandeep Singh Dhami. Charged with murder in the fatal shooting five years ago at the Bradshaw Temple festival site, Dhami has since fled the jurisdiction. Authorities believe he lives in India.
In his direct examination under questioning from defense attorney David W. Dratman, Gosal said he arrived for the meeting in Sacramento from where he lived in Indianapolis about 7:30 p.m. the night before the killing.
He said Dhami had planned the peace talks that Saturday night. Dhami is the son of the late, onetime Bradshaw Temple board member Balbir Dhami, who was convicted of running dope out of a Stockton Boulevard truck stop he partially owned before he was shot and killed in a still-unsolved murder case in 2011.
A long-haul trucker, Gosal testified his itinerary had him flying back to Indianapolis at noon Sunday because he had a $4,000 job awaiting him Monday morning to haul a load from Kansas to New Jersey.
Once he landed at Sacramento International, Gosal testified he found out from Dhami that the meeting to resolve the disagreement over the beating aftermath had been canceled.
He said Dhami put him up in a Best Western that night on Stockton Boulevard. His plan was to have a friend drive him to the airport in the morning, but the pal called in the morning to say he couldn't make it.
That left Dhami as his ride to the airport, Gosal told jurors, but he showed up too late for him to catch the plane so he arranged for a later flight while they went to the festival.
At the temple, Gosal said Dhami spotted some friends near the cricket field. When they were going over to say hello, Gosal testified that a crowd of 10 to 15 people led by Pamma a man with whom Dhami had an ongoing disagreement of an uncertain nature called Dhami out and approached the two of them.
In a flash, Gosal testified, Dhami and Pamma pulled out guns in the crowd estimated to be 400 to 500 people. Gosal said he heard his partner fire.
"I was just standing, surprised at what was going on," Gosal testified. Then somebody hit him on the jaw, he said. He testified he stumbled right into Dhami, who slipped him a second gun.
"He kind of just handed it to me," Gosal testified. "After that, he was getting beat up and I was getting beat up."
Gosal said, "I didn't want to hurt anybody. That was not my intention," but "at one point, I discharged the gun," at least once, and "it could have been more than one."
The defense has suggested that Pamma may have fatally shot himself in the exchange.
In his cross-examination, Ortiz walked Gosal through his series of lies about 20, by The Bee's count, including those he repeated in his multiple interviews with detectives.
The Raksha Bandhan story a lie. The visit to see a California cousin to have her tie the sacred-thread brotherhood bracelet onto his wrist lie. Saying he wanted to surprise her another lie. His telling the sheriff's detectives he was telling the truth lie.
On they went, through about two hours of cross-examination, including one major omission where Gosal admitted he intentionally did not tell investigators that when he got into Sacramento on the Saturday night, he made a stop with Dhami at the Gun Room in Elk Grove where he bought 250 rounds of ammunition.
"I was scared," Gosal testified, in accounting for the failure to include the purchase of the bullets in his account of his activities. "I was under so much stress." The trial resumes Monday in front of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Greta Curtis Fall.
Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.