A white man accused of running over a Sikh man outside a Lakewood liquor store in April, nearly killing him, has been charged with a hate crime and is set to go to court on Friday.
Witnesses said Eric Breemen, 36, entered the Two Angels Liquor store owned by Lakhwant Singh on April 29 and began knocking things over. Breemen is then said to have left the store and when approached by Singh, Breemen drove his car toward the 61-year-old man and ran him over with all four tires.
Singh’s wife saw the whole thing and told Lakewood Police that her husband was dragged by the car. She said Breemen almost ran her over too, but she was able to get out of the way.
She and another witness said Breemen then drove away. Singh was left with broken ribs, internal bleeding, a spinal fracture and needed staples in his head, among other injuries.
These injuries were so severe that First Judicial District Attorney Peter Weir and FBI agents couldn’t interview Singh about the crime until he was released from the hospital and began his rehabilitation in July. Weir’s office also said precautions related to the coronavirus pandemic have slowed down the processes within the justice system.
“We would have preferred to have had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Singh personally closer to the time of his assault as we made decisions in this case,” Weir said in a statement. “However, the severity of Mr. Singh’s injuries and health concerns related to the pandemic only recently permitted a thorough, in-person, interview with Mr. Singh by law enforcement.”
This case has gained international attention due to the severity of the crime — committed by a white man against a man of color — at a time when the United States is grappling with its own past and present issues around racism.
The Sikh Coalition, a national organization that works to protect Sikhs’ rights, had been working to ensure officials included hate crime charges in Singh’s case. The coalition said in a press release that more than 2,600 people emailed Weir’s office and 29 organizations from around Colorado and the country signed a letter urging Weir to charge Breemen accordingly.
“I am so very grateful to everyone — Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike, from Lakewood, elsewhere in Colorado, across the country, and beyond — who have stood with me and my family in this incredibly difficult time,” Singh said in a statement to the coalition. “I appreciate the Jefferson County authorities hearing my story and, through these charges, recognizing the role that hate played in my horrible attack.”
Breemen faces 17 charges, including committing a felony hate crime and attempted murder. When the attack happened, Breemen was out on bond for a separate case of felony menacing and disorderly conduct. He was also wearing an ankle monitor.
When Breemen spoke to Lakewood Police, he initially denied being at Singh’s liquor store at all, according to police records. Then he told police that he indeed was there, and he knocked things over in a rage over something unrelated. He said he left the store and Singh followed, threatening him with a rock. Breemen told police he never threatened Singh, who he described as “an older Arab.” He said Singh then jumped in front of his car when he was trying to leave, then Breemen “felt a bump,” and drove away.
Breemen’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 24, 2020, at 8:30 a.m., though Weir’s office expects the defense will request some additional time to review the prosecution’s evidence. Breemen is currently being held at the Jefferson County jail on a $50,000 bond.