About 200 members of the Sikh and Sacramento community gathered Saturday afternoon at the Sacramento Memorial Lawn to mourn the death of Gurmej Atwal, one of two victims of the
Preceding Atwal's cremation was a two-and-a-half-hour long memorial service, where family members, friends, members of the Sikh community and government officials paid their respects to Atwal.
"You are not alone," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, told members of the Sikh family, echoing messages of support and solidarity pledged by other community leaders.
The funeral drew not only members of the same faith as Atwal, but also those from the Jewish community and other Christian denominations from up and down the Central Valley.
"I think it's an indication that everyone feels that these crimes are not representative of our community, and they're coming forward to show that they're in solidarity in feeling the pain of these deaths and combating these crimes in general," said Amar Shergill, a Sikh lawyer and community leader who has served as a spokesperson for the victims' families.
after remaining on life support for several weeks. He was 78.
He and his friend, Surinder Singh, 65, were shot while on an afternoon stroll in early March along East Stockton Boulevard. Singh died shortly after the attack, while Atwal lived a few more weeks.
"This is the kind of incident that certainly reinforces and reminds us that there are those who do not respect others, do not respect human life, and certainly don't respect those who look or act differently than they do," said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento.
Elk Grove Police Chief Robert Lehner, who also spoke at the funeral, promised the victims' families that the department will keep on investigating and pursuing the double homicide case. Detectives have focused their investigation on a male shooter, possibly driving a tan Ford F150 pickup truck.
Crime Alert Sacramento has increased the reward from $10,000 to $15,000 to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the suspect.
Atwal is survived by 10 grandchildren, four children and his wife, Balbir Kaur. Three of his grandchildren, including granddaughter Navdeeb Atwal, spoke at the funeral, recalling the memories they've had with their grandfather.
"I miss my grandpa," she said.
Click to view more photos.