May 10, 2022 (Sutter, CA) — Almost one year ago, Mr. Rouble Paul Claire, a first generation Sikh American and father whose family has called Sutter home since 1973, was threatened with a racial slur and vehicular violence at a local store and then, in a second separate but related incident hours later, subjected to more racial slurs and hateful graffiti at his home. Mr. Claire, age 66, immediately notified the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO); but after months of delay and inconsistent responses, he retained the Sikh Coalition for free legal help in October of 2021.
The Sikh Coalition is urging the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office (SCDAO) to bring criminal charges in the first case. Simultaneously, Mr. Claire has filed a civil suit against officers of the SCSO, Sutter County, and the individual who threatened him. Attorneys Gina Szeto-Wong, Principal Attorney of Szeto-Wong Law, and Sean Tamura-Sato, Managing Partner of Minami Tamaki LLP, are representing Mr. Claire in the civil case.
On May 11, 2021, Mr. Claire was accosted by a woman in his neighborhood while at South Butte Market, a local grocery store. The woman shouted and cursed at Mr. Claire–including by calling him a “f*cking Hindu”–threatened to “ram” him with her car, and then got in her car and sped towards him in a parking lot, only swerving away at the last moment. Later that day, another woman connected to the assailant in the first incident wrote the word “Sand N*gger” in chalk on the sidewalk outside Mr. Claire’s house and in his driveway, and called him “N*gger.”
“I have been subject to threats, harassment, and racial slurs–yet almost a full year later, no one has been held accountable,” said Mr. Claire. “For months after immediately reporting these hateful acts, I sat in silence waiting for action that never came. I did not want to have to take legal action against anyone, but I believe that this failure of justice is unacceptable: No one in our community should have to face this kind of hate and bigotry.”
Despite repeatedly appealing to the SCSO for help, Mr. Claire received little aid. One deputy who responded to the chalking incident used his own water bottle in an attempt to wash away the evidence before taking photos for the office; another advised him to not to drive on his own street to avoid any confrontation. For months, Mr. Claire’s requests for action, charges, or even a police report documenting the incidents, repeatedly fell on deaf ears. Click here for a full timeline of Mr. Claire’s interactions with law enforcement.
When the Sikh Coalition was retained to provide Mr. Claire with free legal guidance, our attorneys met with SCSO Sheriff Brandon Barnes in December of 2021 and January of this year. In those conversations, Sheriff Barnes acknowledged that his deputies failed to follow proper investigatory protocol in the course of these cases and confirmed that one deputy had received additional training as a result. Eventually, we secured a police report detailing Mr. Claire’s experiences–in which the SCSO recommended criminal charges against the woman who threatened Mr. Claire at the store six months after the incident. The SCDAO, however, refused to press charges; aside from minimizing the danger of the altercation and ignoring the hateful slurs and vandalism Mr. Claire was subjected to both at the market and at his home, they cited the amount of time that had elapsed between the incidents and the police finally calling for charges as reason not to move the case forward–despite the fact that this delay was due to the SCSO’s failure to properly investigate and act.
“No one deserves to feel threatened in their own community, and law enforcement–both police and prosecutors–simply must do better,” said Amrith Kaur Aakre (she/her), Sikh Coalition Legal Director. “Tragically, we have seen time and again that hateful interactions can lead to violent results; the case of Khalid Jabara, killed in Oklahoma in 2016 after months of verbal, bias-based harassment from a neighbor, comes to mind. The large Sikh population in this area is only more reason to ensure that all members of this community feel safe and secure.”
The Sikh Coalition is calling on the SCDAO to bring charges of Criminal Threats, Assault, Assault with a Deadly Weapon against the woman who initially threatened Mr. Claire with her car. We also remain extremely concerned about the utter inaction of local law enforcement in response to the racial slurs and graffiti on and around Mr. Claire’s property–and broader allegations of a pattern of inaction by the SCDAO in cases targeting members of marginalized communities.
Mr. Claire pursued the civil suit as it increasingly became the most viable option for justice in light of the SCDAO’s unwillingness to act. The claims in the civil suit against individual officers of the SCSO include Violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution regarding the failure to administer police services in a non-discriminatory manner (42 U.S.C. 1983) and Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights (42 U.S.C. 1985); the suit also includes a Municipal Liability claim against the County of Sutter for Unconstitutional Policy, Practice or Custom (42 U.S.C. 1983). Additionally, the suit alleges violations of state law, including the Ralph Civil Rights Act, the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act, and claims of Assault, Trespass, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against the civilian defendants. To read a copy of the civil suit, click here.
“It is unacceptable that the law enforcement authorities sworn to protect Mr. Claire did so little over such a long time–and then ultimately refused to pursue the justice that he deserves,” said attorney Sean Tamura-Sato. “This civil suit is a first step to remedying that failure, as well as taking legal action against the women who threatened and harassed him, who have faced no consequences whatsoever due to Sutter County’s practice of inadequately investigating and prosecuting hate crimes against racial and ethnic minorities,” said attorney Gina Szeto-Wong.
Sikhs are members of an independent faith tradition that is the world’s fifth largest religion, and California is home to roughly half of the 500,000 Sikhs in the United States. Per the FBI, Sikhs remain among the top five most frequently targeted religious groups in the country for hate crimes and bias incidents. Raising Sikh awareness among law enforcement and the general public is essential to combating these acts of hate, and it is important to recognize that no religious, racial, or other group deserves to be targeted by hateful vandalism, slurs, or violence. For a full timeline of Mr. Claire’s case, including his interactions with law enforcement, please click here; to read the civil suit filed yesterday, click here. Mr. Claire is not available for further interviews around this case, but his legal team is prepared to offer additional comment; to speak with them, please email email@example.com.