The Kern County District Attorney's Office today filed misdemeanor charges against a Bakersfield man who allegedly accosted a local Sikh man outside of a California Avenue restaurant on Sept. 30, cursing at him, threatening him and drenching him with a drink.
According to a release from the D.A.'s office, defendant David Scott Hook, 40, has been charged with one count of interference with the exercise of a civil right and one count of battery.
Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green said the civil rights charge falls under the legal category of a hate crime.
"It is alleged defendant David Hook threw liquid on another individual because he appeared to be of a different religion or race," the D.A.'s release said.
Green's office verified that this case is connected to the alleged attack on Balmeet Singh, whose reaction to the incident published in The Californian earlier this month garnered attention and sympathy from several quarters across community.
The alleged attacker "said I was a threat to the country I grew up in, the country I was born in," Singh told hundreds who gathered last week at a Sikh temple, known as a gurdwara, on Stine Road in southwest Bakersfield.
The event, which included several guest speakers, was called a "dialogue against hate."
Singh, 30, was standing outside the Habit Burger restaurant, on the phone with his 13-year-old nephew, when he was allegedly approached by the irate Mr. Hook.
"You gonna blow up this country," Singh said the man screamed at him, before swearing and yelling that he was going to kill him. Then the man threw the contents of his drink on him, Singh said.
Eventually the man drove away. Singh, his beard and traditional turban soiled and made sticky by the liquid, captured the license plate and called police.
In a conversation with a Bakersfield Police Department investigator, Singh said he was told the man was identified and questioned. The man told police he thought Singh was a Muslim.
Singh said he was disappointed that people seated on the restaurant patio who witnessed the incident did not come to his aid, but instead looked away when he tried to meet their eyes.
But he also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support he has received from hundreds, even thousands, in the community.
But he wanted to be clear on one important point. Had he been Muslim or Arabic, and not a Sikh man whose family immigrated from India, the assault still would have been wrong.
If convicted, Hook could face up to one year in jail and a fine.
Green said Friday it wouldn't be appropriate for her to comment specifically about the case at this time.
"We take this case seriously," Green said, "as we do all criminal cases."