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Family, Lodi residents gather to remember man killed in officer-involved shooting

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Jack Johal

Mark Merin

Jag Vatth

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 11:28 pm

Parminder Singh Shergill’s family told hundreds of guests at a Friday night vigil that Lodi Police Department officers were called to his home to help him the morning he was shot and killed.

Kalvinder Kaur Sahota, Shergill’s older sister, said Lodi police had been to their home on Elderica Way in the past, usually to help transport him to the Veteran Administration hospital in Stockton for treatment.

Sahota and Jack Johal, Shergill’s cousin who is co-representing the family, said the 43-year-old veteran suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, and at times would become nervous and agitated.

Johal said it was Shergill’s mother who called police the morning of Jan. 25 because she did not know how to help her son.

“(The police) had been told before (of his condition),” Sahota said Friday night, adding her brother had always been respectful to officers. “They knew what was wrong. They had been there before to take him to get help.”

Johal and Mark Merin, a Sacramento civil rights attorney who is also representing the family, said Shergill had no history of violence toward anybody.

“They were called to the house that day for medical assistance,” Merin said. “The police had been requested before, and they would come to the house and take him to a VA hospital. Whoever responded the morning of Jan. 25 either was not familiar with, or didn’t care, about Parminder’s condition.”

Dozens of family, friends, neighbors and Lodi residents gathered at the Deshmesh Darbar Sikh Temple at Armstrong Road and West Lane with candles Friday night in memory of the 43-year-old Shergill, who was shot and killed by two Lodi police officers responding to a disturbance call at 9:06 a.m. on Elderica Way in the Parkwest neighborhood.

Police said Shergill was armed with a knife and charged at two officers, forcing them to open fire.

Lodi police have released few details about the incident thus far, and have yet to confirm the size or type of knife they say Shergill was carrying, the number of shots fired, how close officers were standing to Shergill or the names of the officers involved.

Merin and Johal have spoken to about eight witnesses in the neighborhood. Witnesses told the attorneys that officers followed Shergill as he walked home from the park. They said that at one point, Shergill turned to the officers, raised his hands and told them not to shoot just before they opened fire some 20 feet from him, Merin said.

Witnesses also said they never saw a knife in Shergill’s hands, according to Merin. Witnesses told Merin there at least 14 spent shell casings in the neighborhood, he said.

Johal told the dozens of community members, among them Sikhs, Buddhists and members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Bear Creek Community Church, that the incident is not about race.

“We are not here to attack the Lodi Police Department or the officers who shot Parminder,” he said. “This is a tragedy for all of us, including the officers and their families.”

Johal said that while the incidents leading up to Shergill’s death raise “serious questions,” he urged those in attendance to let the legal system ask those questions and find out what went wrong.

Family, friends speak about tragedy

Jag Vatth is a family friend who grew up with Shergill, and recalled how the two of them would watch wrestling on television. He remembered how their fathers took them to Arco Arena in Sacramento to see Hulk Hogan take on Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

Shergill was more than just a friend, Bath said — he was family, as they had known each other nearly 40 years.

“We’re to pray, and also meditate,” he told the crowd. “A lot of churches and temples have shown their support. And on the other side, law enforcement has shown their support. We all want the truth about what happened that day, and the answers will come.”

Rex Dhatt, the chair of the Lodi Sikh Temple Committee and president of the American Punjabi Chamber of Commerce, said Shergill’s death was not the way a United States veteran should have died. He said Shergill was someone who was proud to have served his country.

“In this country, we honor our veterans,” he said. “We enjoy our lifestyle and freedoms because that is what veterans have fought to protect for us.”

Dhatt said more resources need to be made available to veterans and their families when it comes to coping with conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder.

Pastor Mark Price from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church told the crowd the entire community needs to stand together.

“This is a terrible tragedy for all involved,” he said. “The entire community stands with you, and wishes to be in fellowship with you. From this tragedy, Lodi will become stronger and safer.”

Shergill was born in Jagatpur, India, in 1970. Family members said he came to the United States when he was about 4 or 5 years old. He graduated from Lodi High School in 1989, immediately joining the Army.

After spending two years in Germany while enlisted, he served in Iraq during the Gulf War. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1995.

Shergill returned to the area, attending San Joaquin Delta College and University of the Pacific before graduating from California State University, Sacramento in 2001 with a degree in engineering.

He worked for a local trucking company while in school, before going to work for Pacific Coast Producers as a control room operator.

Family members said Shergill became very religious after returning from the military, often spending most of his time alone either in prayer or contemplation.

Shergill was receiving mental health treatment at a Veterans Administration hospital. Merin said Lodi police were aware of Shergill’s conditions. One of Shergill’s neighbors told the Lodi News-Sentinel this week that Lodi police had responded about four times in seven years to his home regarding his mental health issues.

Shergill would have turned 44 in May.

“Nobody should be afraid to call Lodi police for help,” Dhatt said. “But the community will be afraid if this tragedy isn’t investigated openly and completely. If mistakes were made, then we should make sure that these mistakes aren’t made again.”

Contact reporter Wes Bowers at wesb@lodinews.com.

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