YUBA CITY, Calif. (AP) — Authorities in Northern California on Monday said they had arrested more than a dozen men from two warring criminal syndicates whose violent rivalry they say was responsible for a mass shooting at a Sikh temple and a brutal sword attack at a parade in 2018.
Sutter County District Attorney Jennifer Dupré said the two syndicates were responsible for multiple shootings where 11 people were shot, including five people at a Sikh temple in Stockton last year and two more victims at a temple in Sacramento last month.
None of the victims died. Dupré said all of the men arrested are part of California's Sikh community and were members of one of two rival groups whose feud was fueled by intense personal connections.
"This started out as one group, and one faction broke off, and since then they have been rivals trying to outdo each other. Mainly they show up places and try to shoot each other," Dupré said, comparing it to the U.S. Civil War "where brothers were fighting against brothers."
Dupré said the arrests are not related to the murders last year of a Sikh family in the San Joaquin Valley, which included the killings of an 8-month-old baby, the baby's parents and an uncle.
Dupré said the violence began in 2018 at the annual Sikh Parade in Yuba City, one of the largest South Asian festivals held outside of the Indian subcontinent. There, Dupré said, a man was beaten so hard with a sword that it broke. The violence soon escalated to shootings, including one at a wedding party in 2021.
The rash of violence attracted the attention of the Yuba-Sutter Narcotic and Gang Enforcement Task Force, which launched an investigation with assistance from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and various other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The investigation intensified in March, when authorities learned of potential violence at a Sikh parade in Sacramento. Dupré said police stopped two cars before they reached the parade, arresting seven people and seizing four handguns and two other guns with large capacity magazines.
A shooting still happened at the parade, injuring two people, but Dupré said a "mass casualty incident" was prevented.
"If those weapons had gotten into the parade, it could have been a bloodbath," Dupré said.
Altogether, Dupré said police seized 41 guns during the investigation, including a weapon described as a "machine gun."
Authorities arrested 17 people, including Karandeep Singh, Pardeep Singh, Pavittar Singh, Husandeep Singh, Sahajpreet Singh, Harkirat Singh, Tirath Ram, Dharamvir Singh, Jobanjit Singh, Gurvinder Singh, Nitish Kaushal, Gurminder Singh Kang, Devender Singh, Karambir Gill, Rajeev Ranjan, Jobanpreet Singh and Singh Dhesi.
Dupré said five other people — Amandeep Singh, Harmandeep Singh, Gursharn Singh, Grucharan Singh and Jaskaran Singh — have not yet been arrested.
Dupré said the men have not had a court appearances yet. It's not clear if they have attorneys yet who can speak on their behalf.
Yuba City, a city of nearly 70,000 people along the Feather River just north of Sacramento, has a large Sikh community. Locals often refer to the area as "mini Punjab," named after the Indian state where many Sikhs live. Each November, tens of thousands of people travel to the city for Nagar Kirtan, one of the largest Sikh gatherings in the U.S.
Sikhs also have a large presence throughout California's Central Valley. The Sacramento County Assistant Sheriff said seven of the shootings occurred in Sacramento County within the past year.
"The investigation in this particular case and the charges that have been brought forth does not in any way reflect or represent the vibrant Sikh community that are such an important and vital part of the greater community in this region," Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho said.