USA: Gurdwara Vandal Charged with Hate Crime, Other Felonies

File Photo: Pittman at the time of his arrest
File Photo: Pittman at the time of his arrest

SPOKANE VALLEY, WA, USA—Jeffrey C. Pittman, a naked man who vandalized a Sikh Gurdwara in Spokane, Washington on March 4, is facing multiple charges.  Pittman is charged with first degree armed burglary, malicious harassment, and malicious mischief.  He is being held on $150,000 bail.

On March 4, around 5 AM in the morning, Pittman broke into the Sikh Gurdwara and started vandalizing property.  He thought the Gurdwara was a Mosque. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich made a statement the same day saying that the suspect may have been on drugs or mentally ill, and when he noticed the religious symbols of the Sikhs, he may have thought the Gurdwara represented ISIS.  Knezovich further added, “It started as a random act of burglary, that rapidly turned into a hate crime.”

During interrogations, Pittman mentioned that he thought the property was abandoned.   During the incident, Pittman caused damage worth $50,000. He attempted to destroy the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, thinking it was a copy of the Quran.  Pittman stated that he did not know who the Sikhs were.

The Gurdwara released a statement saying, “No house of worship in America should ever be vandalized. The Sikh articles of faith, which include the turban and beard, show our commitment to equality, justice and freedom for all. These are not just Sikh values, they are American values.”

Gurcharan Singh Gill, a local Sikh in Spokane Valley said that such incidents are rare in Spokane Valley, however, in the past few years, Sikhs have had to live in fear due to increasing attacks on minorities in the United States.

Sikhs have often been targeted due to their distinct identity.  Such attacks have been a cause of concern since the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, however, they have only escalated in recent months.  Several Sikhs in the United States have been targeted recently because they were mistakenly identified as supporters of ISIS.


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