By Arun Kumar Washington, June 11 (Agency)
US police are trying to determine why a former Indian army officer wanted in India for the 1996 murder of Kashmiri human rights activist Jalil Andrabi opened fire on his family before killing himself.
According to authorities, Major (Retd) Avtar Singh shot his wife and two children and gravely wounded a third child early Saturday at his Selma, California home before turning the gun on himself.
Singh was arrested in February 2011 by Selma police after his wife accused him of trying to choke her. That is when police discovered that he was wanted in India on the charge of murdering Andrabi, local newspaper Fresno Bee reported.
The daily cited Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims as saying that Indian officials chose at that time not to extradite him, and police had no cause to hold him for anything other than the domestic violence incident.
Singh apparently shot and killed his wife and two other sons, ages 15 and three, before killing himself. He called Selma police at 6.15 a.m. Saturday to report that he had killed his family and was going to kill himself, police said.
The lone survivor, identified by family friends as 17-year-old Chris Singh, remained in critical condition in a Fresno hospital Sunday evening after he underwent surgery for head trauma.
The Fresno County Coroner's Office has not yet officially released the names of Singh's wife or the two sons who were killed.
Singh owned and operated Jay Truck Lines in Selma. It is unclear when he settled in the Selma area, but a search of public records databases reveals prior addresses in Fowler, Fresno and Kerman dating to 1996, the Bee said. He also may have lived in Iowa for a time in 2006-07.
The murder-suicide has left the tight-knit Indian community in the small agricultural town of Selma shocked.
"Our community is completely shocked," Rajbir Singh Pannu, president of the town's Sikh temple, said Sunday. "It's a really bad misfortune, especially for the children who died. Anybody who takes somebody's life, in our religion that's cowardice."
The Indian community numbers about 15,500 in Fresno County. That includes 750 in Selma, surrounded by vineyards and peach orchards. The majority of Indians in the area are Punjabi Sikhs, like the family.