Amandeep Singh Dhami arrived at the Sikh temple’s cricket grounds on the last day of August 2008, ready for peace but armed for battle, he testified at his murder trial Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court.
Dhami tucked a .357-caliber handgun in his pants and had a backpack full of ammunition when he climbed out of the SUV parked at the Bradshaw Road temple’s parking lot, he said. His friend, Gurpreet Singh Gosul, fresh off a flight from Indianapolis the night before, was behind the wheel, a 9 mm handgun in his belt, a trusted backup in case there was trouble. Waiting was Parmjeet Pamma Singh, Dhami’s rival in a long-simmering feud that had heated up again days earlier at a San Jose nightclub, then escalated with angry words from Singh the night before in a phone call from a south Sacramento trucking yard.
“If things didn’t go right (with Singh), we wanted to make it out alive,” Dhami said, testifying briefly before Judge Richard Sueyoshi.
Singh, 26, didn’t. Another man was wounded in the shooting that erupted on a day full of festivalgoers. Now, nearly seven years after the fatal shooting at a Sacramento-area Sikh sports festival, Dhami faces judge and jury in Singh’s murder. On Wednesday, Dhami calmly testified of the moments before the deadly incident and an aborted meeting with Singh at the truck yard the night before that led to the shooting.
The meeting was supposed to quash the feud, Dhami testified. It would be, in his words, “a peace meeting ... because we had talked about the matter at hand.” Still, Dhami and Gosul drove to the yard armed and carrying extra ammunition.
“I didn’t know exactly how things would work out,” Dhami explained from the witness stand. He said the pair soon sensed trouble: “We saw more cars than trucks, so it didn’t feel right,” he said. “It could be a setup.”
Dhami said he and Singh finally agreed to a meeting the next day at the festival, against his father’s warnings, Dhami recalled.
“I thought, at the temple, these were two gangsters who could work things out,” he said.
The next day, Singh was dead and Dhami was on the run. He was arrested in India in 2013.