The Sutter County, California District Attorney’s Office announced at a press conference April 17 that 17 Sikh Americans had been arrested in multiple separate shooting incidents.
20 warrants were served, resulting in 17 arrests on April 16, in a coordinated effort across several national and local law enforcement agencies.
“For the past several years, the peaceful Sikh community has been plagued by acts of violence perpetrated by two warring factions of a criminal syndicate,” said Sutter County District Attorney Jennifer Dupre at the press conference.
She added that the rival gangs are known as Minta and the AK-47 Group.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said at the press conference: “Today, California is safer thanks to collaboration, determination, and swift action by DOJ agents and our law enforcement partners in Sutter County,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “No family should ever have to worry about drive-by shootings or other forms of gun violence in the neighborhoods where their children live and play.”
“As a result of this joint law enforcement effort, we’re taking guns off the street and putting suspected gang members and their associates behind bars,” he said.
Watch the full press conference here
Yuba City, California Police Chief Brian Baker noted that the small farming town hosts an annual Sikh parade which is attended by about 100,000 people from throughout the world. “We want to keep this community safe, especially during our celebrations,” he said.
The investigation, which began on Feb. 23, was known as “Operation Broken Sword,” named for an incident so heinous that it broke the sword of the attacker, said Dupre. Operation Broken Sword has focused on the syndicate’s involvement in firearms dealing and violent crime.
The investigation was led by the Yuba-Sutter Narcotics and Gang Enforcement Task Force, also known as NET-5. Abut 500 officers from the FBI, the California Justice Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the US Bureau of Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as several local police and sheriff’s departments were involved.
41 weapons were also seized amid the arrests, including several AR 15s, AK 47s, handguns and at least one machine gun.
Sacramento County Sheriff Public Information Officer Amar Gandhi told New India Abroad that the suspects captured during the investigation were believed to be from two rival factions who had started a pattern of violence at public events, beginning with a 2021 shooting at a wedding in Yuba City, in which victim Amandeep Singh was murdered. Two suspects Karandeep Singh and Pardeep Singh are being held on felony charges of murder.
All 17 suspects are from known rival groups, but not necessarily political rivals, said Gandhi, adding: “They both seem to be pro-Khalistan.”
The investigation is still ongoing and five subjects are still outstanding. More arrests may occur as more information unfolds.
Gandhi said the investigation had netted a “big fish.” Pavittar Singh, who is wanted in India on at least 20 counts of murder, was captured in Woodland, California. Also arrested was his accomplice Hassandeep Singh. Both men have been charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder in a Dec. 21, 2022 incident.
Gandhi said it was not clear yet whether both would be immediately extradited to India, or whether they would serve out sentences in the U.S. before extradition.
Also arrested in the Woodland shooting are Sahajpreet Singh, Hachirat Singh, and Tirath Ram.
The investigations ramped up last month, after three men entered the grounds of the Sacramento Sikh Temple on Bradshaw Road March 26 after a Nagar Kirtan, and shot at each other. Two men were injured in the shooting and taken to local hospitals. The third, Karman Sandhu, initially went on the lam but was found by Sacramento Sheriff’s detectives. Sandhu has been charged with one count of felony attempted murder. He is being held in jail without bail and will make his first court appearance May 2.
Sutter County District Attorney Jennifer Dupre said that law enforcement officials were able to stop seven men in two vehicles from entering the parade site. In their vehicles were two handguns, and two assault weapons with high magazine capabilities.
“A shooting did occur, but we were able to stop mass casualties. Had those men entered the parade, it would have been a blood bath,” said Dupre.
The seven men arrested in that incident include: Amandeep Singh, Gurwinder Singh, Nitish Kaushal, Harmandeep Singh, Gursharan Singh, Devender Singh, and Gurcharan Singh. All have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Dupre and Gandhi did not name the victim in the shooting, nor the other suspect, who may still be hospitalized.