A man was charged Wednesday in connection with an assault on a Los Angeles Metro bus driver who is Sikh, prosecutors said.
KC Tard Jr., 34, faces one felony count of battery with injury on transit personnel in the Nov. 6 attack on Balwinder Jit Singh, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
The attack is being treated as a hate crime.
Tard yelled racial slurs, then struck the bus driver before fleeing, prosecutors said.
“I was attacked because of my Sikh religious appearance and I’m grateful that authorities reexamined my case and finally brought hate crime charges against the assailant,” Singh said in a statement. “Acknowledging hatred when it occurs is the necessary first step for combating the problem.”
Singh's attack sparked concerns among Sikhs who believed the incident was misclassified as a misdemeanor assault.
The Sikh Coalition, a national civil rights organization, argued that the crime should have been investigated as a hate crime because Singh’s attacker had used racial slurs during the assault.
They called on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to reexamine the case.
According to an account provided by the coalition, Tard allegedly shouted that Singh, who wore a beard and traditional Sikh turban, was a terrorist and suicide bomber and accused him of hijacking the bus.
After the racial slurs were made, Singh dropped Tard off at Crenshaw and Manchester boulevards in South Los Angeles. But Tard returned and hit Singh in the face, the coalition said.
Singh struggled to keep his Metro bus, which had 20 to 25 passengers, from careening into traffic. Although he was under attack, he held his foot on the brake, the coalition said.
Once Tard exited the bus, a passenger notified police and Singh was taken to a hospital.
He suffered a black eye, a bruised jaw and a swollen face, the coalition said. Singh also battled an eye infection that required weeks of recovery.
The coalition said attacks on Sikhs have increased in recent months because of “hateful political rhetoric.”
“The Sikh turban stands for justice and equality,” Sikh Coalition senior staff attorney Gurjot Kaur said this week. “It should be celebrated, not feared, and we will continue to educate law enforcement agencies and Americans alike on the necessary steps required to combat the problem of hate in our country.”
If Tard is convicted, he could face up to six years in prison for the attack, prosecutors said.
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Times staff writer Brittny Mejia contributed to this report.