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Slain Sikh store clerk remembered at candlelight vigil in central Fresno

(Left to right) Keerat Brar, 6, Gursant Brar, 5, Anmol Brar, 8, and Simrat Brar, 9, watch a speaker talk during a candlelight vigil in front of The Shields Express Mart in central Fresno on Friday to remember a 68-year-old liquor store employee killed during an armed robbery on New Year’s Day.
(Left to right) Keerat Brar, 6, Gursant Brar, 5, Anmol Brar, 8, and Simrat Brar, 9, watch a speaker talk during a candlelight vigil in front of The Shields Express Mart in central Fresno on Friday to remember a 68-year-old liquor store employee killed during an armed robbery on New Year’s Day. pschlesinger@fresnobee.com

More than 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in front of a central Fresno liquor store to remember a 68-year-old Sikh man who was brutally murdered during an armed robbery on New Year’s Day.

Members of the Sikh community and other groups gathered around 6 p.m. Friday at The Shields Express Mart at 1107 W. Shields Ave., just east of West Avenue, where Gurcharan Singh Gill was stabbed just before 4 p.m. on Jan. 1.

The murder came less than a week after another 68-year-old Sikh man was assaulted on Brunswick Avenue near Shields Avenue, west of Highway 99, in what Fresno police considered a hate crime because the suspects shouted racial slurs at the victim.

While Gill’s murder hasn’t been ruled out as a hate crime by police, Ike Grewal, a member of the Sikh Council of Central California, said the Sikh community has suffered repercussions because of recent events like the terror attacks in San Bernardino.

“Since 9/11 and especially after the San Bernardino shootings, the Sikhs have suffered more,” Grewal said. “We continue to endure the hate crimes that continue to be perpetrated against us and to be mistaken as radicals and terrorists, when we are not. We are peace-loving citizens.”

Members of Gill’s family remembered their father’s dedication to his job, as he would work 18 hours almost every day to send his son to medical school.

A woman who worked at a church across from the liquor store remembered how Gill helped her hide from someone who tried to assault her.

Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria and Fresno City Council President Paul Caprioglio joined the vigil to speak out against violence in Fresno.

“In our community, we’re not going to tolerate any more crimes and any more hate crimes,” Soria said.

A $10,000 award is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the suspect in Gill’s slaying. Crime Stoppers is providing $2,000, while the Sikh community is raising $8,000.

Paul Schlesinger: 559-441-6659, @PaulSch_Photog

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