Kanwaljit Singh, 46, is still recovering from the surgery to repair bullet wounds in his thigh and abdomen. He could not talk much Wednesday when Harvinder Singh, a family friend, went to see him because a feeding tube was still in his throat. But he managed a few words.
“He just keeps saying ‘Waheguru will make it okay,’” Harvinder Singh said. “He is not angry. He is a very kind soul, a very humble man. He does not speak loudly.”
It was only a few days earlier that he became the victim of a possible hate crime.
Kanwaljit Singh, a resident of Port Orange, had just closed his new convenient store and was on his way home when it happened, said Navtej Singh Khalsa, Southeast regional director for the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and a family friend from the same area.
The Port Orange Police Department did not return SikhNN requests for comment, but did email the incident report:
On Feb. 23, Kanwaljit Singh was traveling westbound over the bridge with his 13-year-old son in the passenger seat when a dark colored, possibly black, late 1980s to early 1990s Ford F-150 pick-up truck pulled alongside his Ford Focus as both vehicles neared the top of the bridge. Suddenly, several gunshots were fired from the truck.
When he was shot, Kanwaljit Singh jammed on the breaks, Navtej Singh said, by phone. The truck then also jammed on the breaks and tried to turn around and come back after him.
“His son watched the whole thing,” Harvinder Singh added, in a separate interview.
Kanwaljit Singh pulled over to the shoulder of the bridge and realized he had been shot in his upper thigh and in the left side of his lower torso area, the police report says. He called 911 at approximately 11:50 p.m. as he drove to the 200 block of Dunlawton Avenue where he pulled off to the side of the road. His son was not injured.
The pick-up truck turned south on Halifax Drive and fled the area, the police report says. Kanwaljit Singh was transported to Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach. Officers saturated and searched the area along this route but did not find the truck.
Saturday also was the Dayton 500 weekend, when many spectators come from out of town to see the auto race. But police believe the shooting was committed by a local resident because of the exit taken, Navtej Singh said. Someone from out of the area would probably not know of this exist.
“That route has no cameras,” Harvinder Singh added. “Only a local resident would know that. The way they fled, coming on that side road. They knew what they were doing.”
The police is still investigating Kanwaljit Singh’s car to determine the angle of the bullets. The truck sits higher than the car, so the perpetrator had to shoot in a downward direction. The angle may show whether the driver leaned across the passenger side of the truck to fire the shots, or whether someone seated in the passenger seat fired the shots, Navtej Singh said. The car had six bullet holes. Four were in close proximity. Most were found in the driver’s-side door, and the window was shattered.
According to the police report, the suspect vehicle is a dark Ford F-150 pick-up truck with a FORD decal or emblem on the sides of the truck bed, above the wheel well, with striping above and below it. It also has a chrome handle on the tailgate. The tag information is not known at this time nor is any information about the driver or any other occupants, if any, of the truck.
“No clear motive has been established (but) initial indications are (that) this shooting was not a random act,” the police report says. “There was no previous confrontation between occupants of either vehicle, verbally or otherwise. Based on the lack of substantiated motive and the fact that the victim is of Indian decent and is an observant Sikh distinguished by a beard and turban, this incident has the potential for being a hate crime and investigative efforts are moving forward in that regard.
“(The) FBI has been briefed on this case and will make resources available during the investigation.”
The Department of Justice instructed a local FBI office to collaborate with the police on this matter, Navtej Singh said.
“The police chief has been very supportive to the Sikh community,” he added. He spoke to the family and local members of the community to address their concerns and discuss what they are doing to investigate the crime.
Law enforcement has also provided comfort and security for the family, Harvinder Singh said. “All of the Central Florida Sikh community hopes their effort (to find the perpetrator) will be relentless.”
Only a handful of Sikh families live in Port Orange, but they are part of the greater sangat that attends the gurdwara in Oviedo, near Orlando. They have not experienced any kind of violence like this, said Harvinder Singh, a resident of Port Orange since the mid 1980s.
“Regular Americans are the most caring people in the world,” he said. “What support you get here you won’t get in any country in world.”
_________________________ Note: None of the Singhs in this story are related. Singh is a common last name for Sikh men.