A Sikh man who was hit by a truck, then further attacked by two of its occupants over the weekend, was the victim of a hate crime, Fresno police said Monday.
It was unclear whether the man was mistaken for being Muslim -- something that has led to other attacks on Sikh men in the past.
The 68-year-old man, who has a long gray and white beard and was wearing a turban, was attacked as he crossed the street before 7 a.m. Saturday while waiting for a ride to work, police say.
According to police, the incident began while the man was waiting on the sidewalk for a ride to work. As he waited, two white men pulled up in a truck and began hurling curse words at him, authorities said.
Fearing for his safety, the man began to cross the street when the truck began to pull away, police said. But once the man entered the road, the truck went into reverse and ran him down, its rear bumper hitting him, officials said. The truck’s two occupants then jumped out and punched the Sikh man in the face and body, police said. One of the men said to the man, “Why are you here,” according to police. The pair then jumped back into the truck and sped off, police said.
The comment by one of the attackers led police to conclude it was a hate crime. Officials would not say if they believe the attackers mistakenly thought the victim was Muslim.
In Buena Park this month, someone scribbled “ISIS” on a tractor trailer in an apparent reference to the Islamic State terrorist group and vandalized a Sikh temple.
In 2013, a Sikh man was beaten with an iron bar after leaving a temple in Fresno and later that year a Sikh man in New York City’s Central Park was beaten and called “Osama." Sikhs are often erroneously confused with Muslims, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
In California alone, hate crime incidents against Muslims nearly doubled from 63 in 2013 to 115 a year later. Attacks against Muslims have garnered more media attention following the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.