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'Threats, harassment, and racial slurs' | Sikh man sues Sutter County, deputies and women accused of racist threats

"For months after immediately reporting these hateful acts, I sat in silence waiting for action that never came," said Rouble Claire, a Sikh man who lives in Sutter.

SUTTER, Calif. — Rouble Claire is a 66-year-old man of South Asian descent who's been living in Sutter since 1973. He's also a first-generation Sikh American.

According to the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group that defends Sikh civil rights, Claire experienced racism, hate and threats. It happened at the South Butte Market in Sutter on May 11, 2021.

"That morning, Mr. Claire was accosted at a local grocery store," said Amrith Kaur Aakre, legal director for the Sikh Coalition. "While he was there, a woman he did not recognize started shouting profanities at him and racist slurs. She called him the 'F-word and then Hindu.' She threatened to 'ram' him with her car, and then got in her car and sped towards him in a parking lot, only swerving away at the last moment."

According to the Coalition, Claire immediately went inside the store and asked an employee to call 911. But, the Coalition says the police did not respond to the scene. After that, Claire went home.

"Later that same day, Mr. Claire observed another woman who was scrawling the words 'Sand and then the N-word,' in chalk in front of his house and in his driveway," Aakre said. "He called the police, again, to report the second incident. One deputy who responded to the chalking incident used his own water bottle in an attempt to wash away the evidence before taking photos for the office and another advised him not to drive on his own street to avoid any confrontation."

Credit: The Sikh Coalition

The Coalition is urging the Sutter County District Attorney's Office to investigate the case and file criminal charges. That includes charges of criminal threats, assault, assault with a deadly weapon and all applicable charges, including those involving hate and bias.

On Monday, attorneys representing Claire filed a 41-page civil lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento. The civil lawsuit is against deputies of the Sutter County Sheriff's Office, Sutter County, and the women accused of racist threats. 

"I have been subject to threats, harassment, and racial slurs--yet almost a full year later, no one has been held accountable," Claire said in a statement released by the Sikh Coalition. "For months, after immediately reporting these hateful acts, I sat in silence waiting for action that never came. I did not want to have to take legal action against anyone, but I believe that this failure of justice is unacceptable: No one in our community should have to face this kind of hate and bigotry."

Credit: The Sikh Coalition

Attorneys Gina Szeto-Wong, principal attorney of Szeto-Wong Law, and Sean Tamura-Sato, managing partner of Minami Tamaki LLP, are representing Claire in the civil case. The first hearing is set for August. Claire's attorneys plan on seeking more information through the legal process about the two women accused in the case, along with the role of the SCSO.

"This civil suit is a first step to remedying that failure, as well as taking legal action against the women who threatened and harassed him, who have faced no consequences whatsoever due to Sutter County's practice of inadequately investigating and prosecuting hate crimes against racial and ethnic minorities," said Szeto-Wong.

ABC10's Race and Culture team reached out to the SCSO regarding the case. Law enforcement did not respond to our emails, phone calls or voice message. 

Sutter County District Attorney Amanda Hopper sent ABC10 a statement, in full, reading: 

"The Sheriff's Office did not refer this case to my office for hate crimes against Mr. Claire.  The referred charge was for violating Penal Code Section 245(a)(1), assault with a deadly weapon.  The probable cause statement from the Sheriff's Office did not contain sufficient evidence to prove this crime beyond a reasonable doubt, specifically as the eye witness stated that it did not appear that the suspect attempted to hit Mr. Claire but was merely trying to block him in.  If the alleged information contained in the civil documents are accurate, then my office has not received all of the reports and evidence referenced.  Should all evidence be submitted to the District Attorney's Office, we will conduct a new review and legal analysis of the facts and make a filing decision.  The statute of limitations for the requested charge is three years so the case can be filed anytime prior to May 11, 2024."