Cops say vandalism at Buena Park Sikh temple not hate crime, but Sikhs are worried

A man attends a memorial service for victims of the Aug. 5 shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Aug. 10, 2012, in which six people were gunned down at a Sikh temple. Sikhs have often been targeted by hate criminals in the wake of terror attacks. A Buena Park Sikh temple was vandalized earlier this week. Police say there's no evidence it was a hate crime, but Sikhs are still worried.
A man attends a memorial service for victims of the Aug. 5 shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Aug. 10, 2012, in which six people were gunned down at a Sikh temple. Sikhs have often been targeted by hate criminals in the wake of terror attacks. A Buena Park Sikh temple was vandalized earlier this week. Police say there's no evidence it was a hate crime, but Sikhs are still worried.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

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Last Sunday, a Sikh temple in Buena Park was found vandalized with graffiti, including a message sprayed on a tractor-trailer in the parking lot that contained an expletive followed by "ISIS."

Buena Park police initially investigated the incident as a hate crime. But earlier this week, after they arrested and interviewed 20-year-old Brodie Durazo, they concluded it's not that. Durazo was charged with vandalism at a place of worship.

"After the interview, there wasn't anything there that determined there actually was a hate crime," said Corporal Bret Carter of the Buena Park Police Department; police have described the bulk of the vandalism as "gang graffiti."

But members of the Gurdwara Singh Sabha say they're worried nonetheless. They fear it's backlash to last week's mass shooting in San Bernardino, which authorities have called an act of terrorism.

It's a scenario Sikhs in the United States are all too familiar with. Many have been targeted by hate criminals in the wake of terror attacks.

“We wear turbans and long beards, so…when they see turbans, they confuse us with the image they have of terrorist organizations," said Jaspreet Singh, with the Buena Park temple.

There have been several fatal attacks against Sikhs, including the mass shooting of six people in a Wisconsin temple in 2012 by a killer with white supremacist ties. In another incident, just a few days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, a shooter killed a Sikh gas station owner near Phoenix.

The San Bernardino shooters, husband and wife Syed Riswan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were both Muslim. Hate criminals often target Sikhs as Muslims. But Sikhs are in fact followers of a religion that originated in India in the 1500s, and is not related to Islam.

Buena Park police say they’ve stepped up patrols near the temple nonetheless. An emailed statement from the police department reads that the department "understands the sensitive nature of crimes like this and is providing extra police patrols and attention to the Sikh Temple, out of an abundance of caution."