SPOKANE VALLEY, WA, USA—Jeffrey C. Pittman, a naked man who vandalized a Sikh Gurdwara in Spokane, Washington on March 4, is facing multiple charges. Pittman is charged with first degree armed burglary, malicious harassment, and malicious mischief. He is being held on $150,000 bail.
On March 4, around 5 AM in the morning, Pittman broke into the Sikh Gurdwara and started vandalizing property. He thought the Gurdwara was a Mosque. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich made a statement the same day saying that the suspect may have been on drugs or mentally ill, and when he noticed the religious symbols of the Sikhs, he may have thought the Gurdwara represented ISIS. Knezovich further added, “It started as a random act of burglary, that rapidly turned into a hate crime.”
During interrogations, Pittman mentioned that he thought the property was abandoned. During the incident, Pittman caused damage worth $50,000. He attempted to destroy the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, thinking it was a copy of the Quran. Pittman stated that he did not know who the Sikhs were.
The Gurdwara released a statement saying, “No house of worship in America should ever be vandalized. The Sikh articles of faith, which include the turban and beard, show our commitment to equality, justice and freedom for all. These are not just Sikh values, they are American values.”
Gurcharan Singh Gill, a local Sikh in Spokane Valley said that such incidents are rare in Spokane Valley, however, in the past few years, Sikhs have had to live in fear due to increasing attacks on minorities in the United States.
Sikhs have often been targeted due to their distinct identity. Such attacks have been a cause of concern since the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, however, they have only escalated in recent months. Several Sikhs in the United States have been targeted recently because they were mistakenly identified as supporters of ISIS.
The following statement was released by the Spokane County Sheriff’s office –
This morning, at approximately 5:45 a.m., Spokane Valley Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a call of a naked male caught vandalizing the Sikh Temple located at 1420 North Barker Road in Spokane Valley.
When Deputies arrived, 44-year-old Jeffrey C. Pittman had been detained by witnesses. Members of the Temple said when they arrived, they found Pittman inside. He was naked, had a blanket wrapped around him and was holding a decorative sword. They detained Pittman after a short altercation. The damage is estimated to be several thousand dollars and there was damage to religiously sacred items of the Temple.
Spokane Valley Investigative Unit Detectives were called to the scene to continue the investigation.
Pittman was transported and booked into the Spokane County Jail for Burglary 1st Degree, Malicious Harassment and Malicious Mischief 2nd Degree.
Sheriff Knezovich said, “All religions should be respected. Any crime committed due to someone’s religious beliefs will be a priority and fully investigated.”
The Gurdwara released this statement –
“We don’t know the motivations behind the vandalism yet, but we do know that police are treating the case seriously and that the perpetrator has been arrested. There are no immediate indications that bias was involved.
No house of worship in America should ever be vandalized. The Sikh articles of faith, which include the turban and beard, show our commitment to equality, justice and freedom for all. These are not just Sikh values, they are American values.
We would love take this opportunity to invite local Spokane community members to come to an open house at our Gurdwara. We are your classmates, colleagues, neighbors and we would love to turn this negative act of vandalism into a positive opportunity for the community to learn more about each other. That approach to life is embedded in the Sikh ethos.”
The Spokane Interfaith Council is holding an interfaith conference at the Gurdwara at 4 PM. The address for the Gurdwara is 1420 N Barker Road, Spokane Valley, WA.