LIVINGSTON, California, USA—This past Sunday, the 27th, at around 1:50 am Livingston Police Officers responded to the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple on B St on a report of an armed robbery. Three men entered the gurdwara through the front door. One was holding what appeared to be a semi-automatic rifle, a second man had a large knife and the third appeared to be unarmed.
The three took money from the golak (donation box) in front of the takht or platform where Guru Granth Sahib sits. The man armed with the rifle confronted a woman who was reciting Akhand Patt, motioning her to be quiet by putting his pointing finger over his lips.
The three then left out a side door, meeting up with two other men who were standing watch outside the temple. All subjects were seen on recorded video. No one was hurt during the incident. The subjects took thousands of dollars worth of cash and checks which were in the donation boxes.
All subjects were wearing hooded sweatshirts or jackets in an attempt to conceal their identity. Detectives are following up on clues including recorded video image from security cameras and a witness identification of suspects.
Police Chief Ruben Chavez said that it’s the first robbery he knows of at the gurdwara. “This is more brazen because they did come in armed,” he said. “Obviously it’s someone who knew the temple because they knew where to go.
“We’re looking at different angles, and we will do our best to get to the bottom of it. We really want to identify who they are,” Chavez added.
Sikhs across the US have been on edge since August, when a shooting rampage at the Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Winsconsin left seven people dead and injured several others.
Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra, who attends both Livingston Gurdwaras, classified Sunday’s robbery as “very disturbing.”
“I was in Fresno when I got the call,” Samra said. “The first thing that flashed in my mind was Wisconsin, right away.”
The Wisconsin incident was one of the reasons officials at the temple had surveillance cameras installed, said Narinder Dola, vice president of the temple. “I think the members who were here inside the church [Gurdwara], if they reacted to it, it could have wound up like Wisconsin,” Dola said. “So I think they did the smart move, they didn’t do anything, they just kept quiet.”
Temple President Rajinder Takhar agreed that the situation could have been a lot worse. Despite the incident, the temple will continue to stay open and welcoming to the public, he said.
“It’s a place of worship,” Takhar said. “This is where we come and worship. We donate the money here, we don’t steal from here.”
An active member of the Gurdwara, who wishes to remain anonymous alleged, “This could very well be staged by [local] Punjabi youth.” “Livingston has a large [Punjabi] population and sadly the Gurdwara[s] here have not done much to keep [the youth] involved in religion and community. Many do drugs and other ills denounced by Sikhism.”
He further stated that “if both Gurdwaras in Livingston gave up petty politics and showed interest in following basic principles [of Sikhi] then these youth could be saved.”
The robbers could face several charges if arrested, including armed robbery, brandishing a firearm, conspiracy, burglary with intent to commit a felony, exhibiting a deadly weapon and exhibiting a firearm, according to police.
Sources say that police plan to increase presence at both of Livingston’s Gurdwaras in the near future.
Anyone with information on this crime is encouraged to contact Sgt Fong, 394-7916 or the anonymous tip line 394-3640.