by Ashley Luthern (Journal Sentinel)
A 53-year-old man is charged with a hate crime, accused of setting fire to a Green Bay convenience store owned by a Sikh American – seven months after the most deadly U.S. attack on Sikhs in recent memory at an Oak Creek temple.
James Parrish of Green Bay faces charges of arson with a hate crime modification, first-degree recklessly endangering safety and carrying a concealed weapon. Police arrested Parrish shortly after 7 p.m. March 5 at Dollar Land Inc., 1020 N. Irwin Ave., formerly called Beach Road Liquor. He reportedly entered the store, dumped a liquid on the register and set it on fire, according to Green Bay police.
The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund issued a statement Thursday praising the Brown County district attorney’s office and Green Bay police for treating the arson as a hate crime.
“On the seven-month anniversary of the mass shooting at the Gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, hate once again raised its head in Wisconsin,” Jasjit Singh, the fund’s executive director, said in a news release.
“We must come together in a spirit of tolerance and community to prevent further acts of hate in Wisconsin and across the nation,” he said.
A criminal complaint says that a store employee said Parrish, smelling of alcohol, came in regularly and on the day of the fire, asked her for a date. After she declined, Parrish then walked around the store looking for balloons before returning to the register and dumping the liquid, which the employee said smelled like gasoline.
Earlier in the day, police had been called to Parrish’s house twice for welfare checks. The first time, a social worker requested the check after Parrish said “he works for the CIA and needs to round up terrorists and torture them.”
The second call was made because Parrish was heard commenting throughout the week that “he is a freedom fighter now and that his mission is to go deal with his issues with Beach Road Liquor and to make their money burn.”
When Parrish was arrested, he told officers that “he cooked the register at Beach Road Liquor to get them the hell out of Wisconsin and commented on how they would not be able to open their business until approximately noon tomorrow, giving them time to get the hell out,” the complaint states. Parrish’s next court date is April 5.
On Aug. 5, seven months before Parrish’s alleged arson attack, a white supremacist opened fire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, killing six and wounding four before he was wounded by a police officer and then killed himself.
More than 20 million people worldwide follow the Sikh religion, established about 500 years ago in the Punjab region of India, and about 3,000 Sikh families live in southeastern Wisconsin. Sikhs have often been mistaken for Muslims and targeted in hate crimes.