Willowbrook teen charged with hate crime in attack on Sikh man

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Willowbrook teen charged with hate crime in attack on Sikh man
A 17-year-old has been charged with a hate crime for attacking a Sikh man last week in west suburban Darien.

DARIEN, Ill. (WLS) -- A teenager accused of punching a Sikh man has now been charged with a hate crime.

Police said the 17-year-old from Willowbrook attacked Inderjit Singh Mukker a week ago in a case of road rage in west suburban Darien.

He was previously charged with five felony counts of aggravated battery for the incident that started about 5:15 p.m. on Sept. 8, according to the DuPage County state's attorney's office. His name was withheld because he is a minor.

Police responded to a call of a battery near Cass Avenue and 69th Street, and found 53-year-old Inderjit Singh Mukker in the driver's seat of his vehicle with cuts and bruises to his cheeks, according to prosecutors and Darien police.

Mukker and the teenage boy had each pulled over to the side of the road, where the teen got out and punched Mukker in the face, authorities said. The boy then drove away.

Police tracked the teen to his Willowbrook home, where he punched a police officer in the face when they arrested him, prosecutors said.

Darien police Chief Ernest Brown said the case was initially investigated as a possible hate crime.

Mukker, a Sikh American, had been driving to a grocery in Darien when someone pulled up alongside his car and began yelling racial slurs, "Terrorist, go back to your country, Bin Laden!" according to a statement from Mark Reading-Smith, spokesman for the Sikh Coalition.

Mukker turned onto Cass Avenue, but was repeatedly cut off by the other driver, according to the statement. He pulled over to the side of the road to let the other vehicle pass, but that driver also pulled over, approached his vehicle and assaulted Mukker, punching him repeatedly in the face.

Mukker lost consciousness and suffered a broken cheekbone. Mukker spoke at a rally for the first time, saying no one deserves to be treated like that.

"This is my country, this is my home. I am an American, and no American should be judged or attacked because of the color of their skin and their religion," Mukker said.

Fellow Sikhs and people of other faiths stood with Mukker as the DuPage County prosecutor upgraded the charges to include a hate crime charge.

"Crime based on hatred or prejudices have no place in our society," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement.

"Any physical attack motivated in whole or in part by an offender's pre-conceived bias against another individual based on race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation is a crime not only against the victim but against society as a whole. Anyone accused of such behavior will be vigorously prosecuted and held accountable for their actions," Berlin said.

"We are thankful that Robert Berlin and the DuPage County state's attorney's office have filed a hate crime chard in this case," the Sikh Coalition's legal director Harsimran Kaur said in a statement.

"For the Sikh American community, a formal hate crime charge was never about a harsher penalty, but instead prosecuting the crime for what it was. We can't combat the problem of hatred against minority communities in America unless our elected officials and government agencies acknowledge the problem exists," Kaur said.

No court date has been set.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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