LODI, Calif. — Hundreds of people gathered at a Sikh temple in Lodi to mourn and demand answers in the death of an Army veteran who was shot and killed by local police.
Friends and family said during the Friday night vigil at the Deshmesh Darbar Sikh Temple that Parminder Singh Shergill, 43, who participated in 1990-91's Operation Desert Storm, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was exhibiting signs of a flare-up before two officers shot him on Jan. 25 near the home he shared with his mother.
"Parminder served in the Army," his sister Kulbinder Sahota said, breaking into sobs. "He did not deserve to die the way he did."
The confrontation happened after Shergill's worried mother called police to look for him after he abruptly left the house while in a bad mental state, relatives said. Lt. Sierra Brucia, a Lodi Police Department spokeswoman, said the officers opened fire after Shergill lunged at them with a knife.
"If someone is charging an officer and is a moving target, the officer can't just shoot them in the leg," Brucia said. "You've got to stop the suspect's actions, stop the threat. The center of the body is the obvious target."
The shooting is being investigated by the Lodi Police Department, the California Department of Justice and the San Joaquin District Attorney's Office, standard procedure when a member of the public dies at the hands of police. The department on Saturday identified the officers involved as Cpl. Scott Bratton, who has been on the Lodi force since 2000, and Officer Adam Lockie, who joined the year before, Sacramento television station KCRA reported.
The family has hired a civil rights lawyer, Mark Merin, who disputed the police account during Friday's candle light vigil and told reporters that his investigators found 14 bullet casings at the scene. Merin said witnesses told the investigators that Shergill at first refused to turn around when the officers tried to stop him.
"He didn't turn around until, in front of his home, he turned around," he said. "And put his hands up in the air and said, 'Don't shoot,' at which time he was killed."
"It just seems like a totally unjustified wanton waste of human life," Merin added.
Shergill is scheduled to be buried with full military honors next Saturday at Cherokee Memorial Park in Lodi. Family friend Jag Singh Batth said the death is a grim reminder of how hard it is for non-veterans to understand the scars many former soldiers carry.
"If anybody out there, has any other relative, who is facing this kind of illness, post war syndrome, please don't hesitate to get help," Batth said. "I believe on a personal basis, I let him down."