Police are investigating the brutal assault of a Sikh man in central California last week as a hate crime, according to local media reports.
Surjit Malhi, 50, had just finished placing campaign signs in support of Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) in Keyes when he saw two white men wearing black hooded sweatshirts waiting for him by his truck, reported CBS Sacramento.
The two men attacked Malhi, throwing sand in his eyes and beating him on the head, shoulders and neck, he told the news outlet.
“Go back to your country!” and “You’re not welcome here!” he said they shouted. They spray-painted “Go Back to ur country” on his truck and drew a white supremacist version of the Celtic Cross.
“I’m American ― 100 percent, no doubt,” Malhi told CBS Sacramento. “So they say, ‘Go back to your country.’ This is my country.”
Malhi was treated at the scene for his wounds, but told CBS Sacramento that he still feels dizzy at times. He credited his turban for softening the blows to his head.
“My turban saved me,” he said.
Law enforcers are investigating the attack as a hate crime, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson told The Sacramento Bee, and were still searching for the two assailants.
“This is a random despicable criminal act against a member of the Sikh community,” Christianson told the Bee.
Malhi is a prominent resident of Stanislaus County, according to local media. He reportedly has raised thousands of dollars for homeless people and fire victims.
Local residents gathered at Malhi’s home on Sunday to show support by washing his truck and cleaning his yard.
“Surjit Malhi is truly loved and today we helped him realize he belongs here in America just like the rest of us,” a community member wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “Helping hands brought love and compassion into the life of a man that has helped our community from day one. Love will always conquer hate!”