MTV News article NEW YORK — The man accused of leading the mob attack on the American Indian temple in New York City on Sunday night is a Sikh, the nation’s first Sikh to serve in the U.S. Congress.
The assault on the Sikh temple in the New York borough of Queens was carried out by a mob that included members of the far-right militia group Oath Keepers.
The violence left seven people injured, including three police officers, and led to the arrest of a Sikh man, identified by police as 39-year-old Jeff Branches, who had served in the Navy in the 1960s.
The attack happened just days after a deadly attack in Kansas City, where an Indian-American man was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer who believed the suspect was black.
The man was later identified as Micah Johnson, a member of the local Indian tribe, the Wounded Knee Nation.
The temple was set to host a weekend ceremony to honor the life of Indian- American leader Mohandas Gandhi, who is generally considered a hero for his struggle against white supremacy.
Branches, a father of five, is accused of attacking a police officer and ramming his car into a wall of the temple, then beating him to death with a stick.
He is charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bail at the Queens, New York, jail.
Brands’ lawyer, Mark Geragos, said in a statement that the suspect is a peaceful man who grew up in the Indian village of New York.
“Mr. Branches is a very intelligent, hardworking, loving and devoted person who has served his country honorably,” Geragos said.
“He has a long history of good conduct with his neighbors, friends and colleagues and his faith.
He has been an honorable member of this community for many years and will continue to serve his community with honor.”
Branches has said he came to the United States from India in the 1970s and spent several years in the Air Force before joining the Navy.
He had been a regular at the Indian Village in Queens and served as a lieutenant and enlisted in the United Nations.
The New York police said they were still investigating what led to Sunday’s attack.