Police in Cleveland suburb say they fatally shot cleaver-wielding man inside Sikh temple

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Man with cleaver shot by cops in Ohio Sikh temple

CLEVELAND — A man entered his Sikh temple in suburban Cleveland early Thursday, raised a meat cleaver near two members preparing for morning prayers, and was shot and killed by police, authorities said.

Police don’t believe Ravinder Nijjar, 41, of Bedford, had a religious motive for his behavior at the temple, where he worshipped, Police Chief Greg Duber said.

Nijjar entered the worship area of the Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Temple in Bedford with a meat cleaver 10 to 12 inches long, the chief said.

The two men readying to pray fled and returned with officers, who were confronted within a minute by the man, again with the cleaver raised, the chief said. He kept moving toward officers and was shot.

“The whole community is very much shocked,” said Kamaljit Singh Janda, a member and former president of the temple. “We lost a member of the congregation and somebody lost a son.”

Members of the temple have been questioning why police had to kill Nijjar, whose family has been part of the community since the late 1970s or early 1980s, Janda said. He said it’s likely the temple will make a formal request to Duber about the matter on Friday.

Janda said Nijjar always seemed calm when he had come to the temple in the past and that he was not known as a troublemaker.

Nijjar was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in 2008, the chief said. He was referred while in jail for a mental-health consultation, Duber said. The chief didn’t know the outcome of that consultation.

Nijjar never showed up for his court date and was arrested on a warrant in late 2008 when police answered a call about a fight at his apartment building, the chief said. There is no court record of how the case was resolved, and the chief didn’t know.

Surinder Singh, temple secretary, said he doubted Nijjar had a gripe with anyone in the close-knit congregation.

“I don’t see any reason why he would harm somebody,” Singh said.

Janda said there have been no complaints since 2007, when there was a small dispute over membership. He says the dispute has since been settled to and “nobody had a grudge.”

A 2004 feud among temple members led to fist fights and brought police to the location 11 times in nine months. Factions disagreed over how to run the temple and whether leaders should wear beards and turbans.

The dispute was settled in the courts, and there haven’t been flare-ups, the chief said.

Janda said Thursday’s shooting has not raised concerns over safety because of its rarity and because Nijjar did not take any hostages.

“They just feel sad,” he said. “Everybody feels sad, and they’re grieving the loss, and why it happened in the temple.”

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