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USA Sikh Slain, Wife Wounded In Sacramento


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Sikh slain, wife wounded in Sacramento

By Kim Minugh

The turmoil of Balbir Singh Dhami's life in recent years could offer Sacramento police a glimpse into why he was gunned down on a North Laguna Creek street Thursday morning: a fugitive son accused of murder, allegations of aiding and abetting the son, and federal trafficking charges involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in cocaine.

Officers found Dhami and his wife in their Marla Way home after neighbors reported a burst of gunfire in the quiet, suburban tract.

Dhami, whose name was provided to the media by a friend, was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, whose name also was not released, was transported to a local hospital with critical injuries, according to authorities.

By evening, police had not identified the gunman – who was described as a short, dark-skinned man in a yellow sweat shirt and driving a gold American-made car – nor had they determined a shooting motive.

Sacramento Police Sgt. Norm Leong said only that detectives were pursuing a variety of potential motives other than the possibility of a hate crime. Based on the preliminary investigation, Leong said, there was no indication that the victims' race or religion were motivating factors.

Dhami and his wife are Sikh, a faith founded in the Punjabi region of India.
As news of the shootings spread, some feared a connection to the March killings of two elderly Sikh men in Elk Grove. Though police there have not definitively labeled the acts as hate crimes, they have raised that specter and involved the FBI.

But other details about Dhami's life began to emerge Thursday that could potentially explain his violent end.

Early in 2008, Dhami was among six defendants indicted in a drug trafficking case, according to federal court documents. Prosecutors alleged that Dhami conspired to use his ties to the trucking business – he was part owner of a Stockton Boulevard truck stop – to ferry large amounts of cocaine between Los Angeles, Sacramento, Canada and elsewhere in the country.

Wiretaps picked up conversations between defendants discussing shipments of as much as 48 kilograms of cocaine – more than 100 pounds, documents show. Authorities intercepted that shipment in New Mexico.
A jury convicted Dhami of the conspiracy charge in April 2010, but it does not appear he was ever sentenced. Shortly after the verdict, the national security division of the U.S. Department of Justice assumed control of the case, which is still playing out in court.

Six months after Dhami's indictment, Sacramento County sheriff's detectives named his adult son as one of two suspects in the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Parmit Singh Pamma at a sports tournament on Bradshaw Road.

Amandeep Singh Dhami evaded authorities and is believed to have left Canada for India. At one point shortly after the slaying on Aug. 31, 2008, Balbir Dhami and three other relatives were arrested for allegedly aiding and abetting their fugitive family member.

The District Attorney's Office ultimately dismissed the accessory charges against all four relatives. Amandeep Dhami is still wanted for murder and attempted murder.

The second shooting suspect, Gurpreet Singh Gosal, is scheduled to go to trial in July on the same charges, according to Sacramento Superior Court records.

Law enforcement sources confirmed Dhami was the victim in Thursday's shootings and that he was the same man named in the other two cases.

However, Leong said he could not comment on whether detectives believe there is a connection among the cases. He did say police previously have been called to Dhami's home, but declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.

Efforts by The Bee to reach Dhami's family Thursday were unsuccessful. Some mourners who gathered on Marla Way declined to speak with the media.

One man, who identified himself as a longtime friend of Dhami's, said he could not understand why Dhami would be a target.

"It is heartbreaking how this happened," said John Singh Gill, who said he had known the victim since 1978.

Gill encouraged anyone with information about the shooter's identity to come forward to police.

"Whoever that is, should pay for the crime," Gill said. "It's very sad, very tragic."

Leaders in the Sikh community said Dhami attended two south Sacramento gurduwaras, or Sikh temples, and was a former athlete who helped organize sporting events.

"Right now everybody's shocked," said Buta Singh Johal, vice president of the Sacramento Sikh Society on Bradshaw Road. "In the past (the family) had some trouble, but they are very nice and helpful and well-known in the community."

At the temple, Dhami was sometimes accompanied by his wife, "who's very quiet and a very nice lady," Johal said. After their son was in trouble with the law, Johal said Dhami was seen at the temple less frequently. Dhami also attended a temple on Elsie Avenue, said Kir Singh.

"He was a nice, polite guy who'd come to do his prayers, eat and leave," Singh said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/05/20/3640826/sikh-slain-wife-wounded-in-sacramento.html#ixzz1Mwmq3uDI
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