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Queens Chronicle

Queens Sikhs shocked, saddened by Wisconsin shooting

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Posted: Monday, August 6, 2012 5:12 pm

Police stood guard in front of the Sikh Cultural Center on 97th Avenue in Richmond Hill Monday morning out of what they called "an abundance of caution," the day after a gunman open fire and killed six people at a gurdwara — a Sikh place of worship — outside Milwaukee, Wis. 

Though the shooting occurred over a thousand miles away, the NYPD took the precaution of assigning cops to the temple and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, joined by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown visited the Sikh Cultural Center on Monday afternoon to express condolences to the center's chairman, Mohan Singh Khatra, whose uncle was among the six killed on Sunday in Wisconsin. He is to travel to Milwaukee on Tuesday for his uncle's funeral.

“[This goes] against everything that New York is all about and this remains a city where people of every nationality live in harmony, and where people of every faith worship in freedom, and that's essential to who we are as New Yorkers,” Bloomberg said outside the gurdwara on Monday

Kelly said the NYPD would continue guarding gurdwaras for "an indefinite amount of time" to make sure no copycat attacks take place.

The attack surprised and saddened the Sikh community, which numbers as high as 15,000 in Richmond Hill alone. Khatra, who is flying to Wisconsin to attend his uncle's funeral said he had just spoken to him not long before he was murdered.

Sikh advocacy group Sikhs for Justice said the community has seen a number of hate crime attacks in recent years because Sikhs, with their trademark long beards and turbans, are often mistaken for Muslims because members of Al-Qaeda have been photographed with similar features. 

The Manhattan-based Sikhs for Justice said it is planning on donating $10,000 to Lt. Brian Murphy, the Wisconsin police office shot during the attack. Murphy killed the gunman before he could attack anyone else at the gurdwara. 

 “Brian Murphy is the one that came into harm's way,” said Gurpatwant Pannun, legal advisor for Sikhs for Justice who has a law firm in Jackson Heights. “Had it not been for Brian Murphy, god forbid, there would have been many more lives lost.” 

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