On Sunday night, a 56-year-old Sikh man was stabbed at the Yosemite International Airport in Fresno, California:
Fresno police said Mitchell Dufur, 26, stabbed the Sikh man in his 50s in the upper torso Sunday evening near the security checkpoint. No words were exchanged before the attack. The man was standing with his translator when the attack occurred.
It is unclear whether this attack on the Sikh man occurred before or after the TSA security checkpoint. The victim was treated for his wound – which was not life-threatening – and continued on to board his flight for India.
Dufur was apprehended and arrested by police after he fled the scene. However, with no discernible motive, Fresno police are not treating this attack as a hate crime, as no words were exchanged between Dufur and his victim, and Dufur has not commented to police about his motive since being arrested.
Regardless, the FBI is now involved, and the Council of American-Islamic Relations have requested that the attack be investigated as a hate crime. The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) has also joined in this call.
While it can be said that there is currently no evidence that the attack on this Sikh was motivated by hate-bias, it can also be said that there is no evidence to rule it out either, and given the parties involved, the potential exists. I’m glad that there is at least some consideration by the FBI to explore this as a hate crime, and hopefully this aspect is pursued with appropriate diligence.
However, it is disturbing that the only basis on whether this could be categorized as a hate crime is a statement by the attacker. If Dufur was motivated to attack the Sikh man purely for the victim’s appearance (i.e. because he was wearing a turban and beard), Dufur may elude charges for the hate crime because he has maintained his silence about his motives before and after his crime. This will allow him to elude full punishment for his crime.
How this case will play out remains to be seen, but I’m glad to know that the victim escaped major injury and that the suspect has been arrested. With the unsolved murders of other Sikhs in the United States, Sikhs in this country and beyond now have another case to follow closely.