Bakersfield police in Central California arrested a Sikh American man who previously ran for city council for alleged solicitation to commit criminal acts.
Raj Gill, 60, was arrested on March 4 following reports that he attempted to pay people to shoot specific people Gill had a dispute with, Bakersfield Now reported.
Police also say that Gill offered payment to people to set fire to the Shaheed temple, a Sikh gurdwara in Bakersfield.
Among the people that Gill allegedly targeted was the temple’s board of directors, which included Athwal and Sukhwinder Singh Ranghi, KGET reported.
Athwal and Ranghi believe that their disagreement with Gill originated from their attempt to buy the temple out of foreclosure in 2020.
“He hired the people. Those people, whoever he hired, they came and told us and they made a report for the police. So, the police called us and they got our information and everything and asked questions and we told them what’s going on, and that’s when everything happened,” temple board member Amrik Singh Athwal told 23ABC.
Athwal told KGET that the temple filed a restraining order against Gill in November 2022 due to rising tensions between Gill and members of the temple and his continuous disruption of temple services.
“Everybody is scared, everybody is saying it is unbelievable. What is he thinking? You know, why is he doing it?” Athwal said.
Gill is currently out on bail, and the temple’s attorney Steven Gibbs believes this put their lives at risk.
“I don’t think they’re going to feel safe as long as he’s running around free out there if he was able to take these steps as alleged what’s he going to do next, is he going to get more desperate? whatever it is it can’t be good for them,” Gibbs told KGET.
Gill lost the city council election to Manpreet Kaur in 2022. Kaur became the first Sikh Punjabi woman elected to the Bakersfield City Council, according to 23ABC.
“Hearing this news is distressing and frightening,” Kaur said in a statement to 23ABC. “This is one of our most highly attended Sikh temples locally. To hear of an alleged attempt to destroy a place of worship is heartbreaking and unfathomable.”
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