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2 Patiala brothers shot dead in California
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Two Sikh brothers were gunned down in their Indian restaurant in Richmond, California, on Thursday night in a random act of violence that left the police baffled.

Ravinder and Paramjit Kalsi, who immigrated to the United States from Patiala in 1997, were killed just after 9 pm when they were closing Sahib India Restaurant. They had owned the restaurant since 2002.

The police described the suspects as Asian or Latino. They approached the restaurant door and shot Ravinder, 30, as he let them in. The suspects then chased Paramjit, 42, into the rear of the restaurant and shot him before fleeing. Witnesses saw no getaway car.

A police officer passing on his way to work arrived at the crime scene almost immediately after the emergency call but did not see the shooters. His dog tracked a scent a short distance south on the avenue where the restaurant is located.

Lt. Mark Gagan, a regular at the restaurant, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the motive “is completely unknown.” “Even veterans to law enforcement are puzzled by this. Based on the brothers’ lifestyle and the dynamics of how it went down, it’s very unique. It’s also very disturbing,” he said.

“It does not look like a robbery. It looks like these two guys went in there to kill,” Richmond detective Sgt. Mitch Peixoto told the Contra Costa Times. “That’s what worries me. Why?”

The Sikh community in California reacted with anger to the killings. “These were the most gracious, hardworking, spiritual guys,” Gurman Bal, the brothers’ former roommate in Berkeley and a fellow member of the Sikh temple in El Sobrante, told the Chronicle. “Something has to be done. If the police can’t capture the monsters who did this, they should just dissolve the police department and let people fend for themselves.”

Having worked as carpenters in India, the Kalsis did construction work in Berkeley before saving enough money to buy a house. The men, described by friends as gentle, spiritual and hard working, would send money home to their family, particularly a disabled sister.

“People are really shocked by this,” J.P. Singh, past president of the temple and a longtime friend of the Kalsi brothers, told the San Jose Mercury News. “Richmond has a track record worse than the Third World. This would never happen in India.”

Richmond city councilman Harpreet Sandhu, a friend, described the killings as a “terrible shock.”

In 2003, two Sikh cabdrivers were shot in what police described as hate crimes. One of the men died. Earlier this month, two Indian doctoral students from Andhra Pradesh were killed on the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge. The police described the incident as a home invasion.

Varinder Singh adds from Patiala: The family of the deceased in Model Town here was informed about the incident by their relatives in the USA. “What shocked us was a phone call from our relatives in the US who said Vicky, a nephew of the Kalsi brothers, was survived by five brothers and two sisters.

“We are shattered. My sons had no animosity with anybody in the USA or in India. We don’t know who could have been behind this crime against our innocent family,” said Gurbachan Kaur, the inconsolable mother of the deceased. Surinder Singh, a brother of the deceased, said the family was shocked and confounded over the crime particularly when his brothers had not offended anybody in the USA at any point of time.

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