Buena Park Sikh leaders call for investigation after temple vandalized

Gang graffiti was spray painted on the exterior of the Sikh Center in Buena Park.

Gang graffiti was spray painted on the exterior of the Sikh Center in Buena Park.

(Sikh Coalition)

Sikh community leaders in Orange County are urging authorities to investigate a weekend episode of temple vandalism as a possible hate crime, while police have increased patrols near the religious center.

Gang graffiti was found scribbled on the exterior of the Sikh Center in Buena Park on Sunday, while an expletive and the word “ISIS” was scrawled on a community member’s truck, according to the Sikh Coalition.

“We believe that the Gurdwara Singh Sabha was vandalized because it is a Sikh house of worship,” the coalition’s attorney Gurjot Kaur said in a statement. “We call on local and federal agencies to investigate this vandalism as a hate crime and request increased law enforcement security at the gurdwara immediately.”

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Buena Park police are investigating the incident, Cpl. Bret Carter said.

When officers arrived at the temple, they saw the vandalized truck leaving the parking lot and noticed the ISIS scrawl on it, Carter said. It was unclear when the graffiti was sprayed on the vehicle, because officers were unable to speak to or identify the driver.

The scribbling on the temple, he said, never mentioned Islam.

A gang based in East Buena Park had scrawled its insignia on the back of the temple – graffiti commonly seen throughout the city, Carter said. There was no indication the graffiti was a hate crime.

“We don’t have any evidence of a hate crime or that it occurred,” Carter said.

Kaur said the police don’t always recognize bias, adding that this episode showed signs of hate.

The driver of the vandalized truck, she said, was staying overnight at the temple. He is believed to be from Texas, but he had not been identified, Kaur said.

The Sikh community is often targeted because of their dress and grooming, she said.

“These are hateful slurs often targeted at Sikhs,” Kaur said.

In the wake of the shooting rampage in San Bernardino, the Sikh community is fearful of assaults on their members.

In 2012, six Sikh worshipers were killed when a neo-Nazi walked into a temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and opened fire.

Police, Kaur said, have agreed to increase patrols near the Buena Park temple.

“I am thankful for law enforcement’s attention to this investigation,” the temple’s President Inderjot Singh said. “However, I believe this crime must be investigated as a hate crime to ensure that we do not ignore the patterns of intolerance and violence that Sikhs and other minority communities continue to face.”

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