A Whatcom County Superior Court judge will decide whether a former Bellingham police officer and his brother beat two men inside a Blaine business in mid-October.
A bench trial, which is expected to last several days, started Monday afternoon for Sukhdev Dhaliwal and Jagmeet Dhaliwal. The brothers waived their right to a jury trial earlier in the day.
Sukhdev Singh Dhaliwal, 32, and Jagmeet Singh Dhaliwal, 38, each face charges of felony second-degree assault — strangulation or suffocation and fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor.
Sukhdev Dhaliwal was fired as a police officer with the Bellingham Police Department effective May 7 after allegations of misconduct were sustained during an internal investigation, according to Police Chief David Doll.
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Dhaliwal was with the Bellingham Police Department since Oct. 1, 2015, and was also a Whatcom County Jail deputy for about four years. He has no prior criminal record except for a driving offense from several years ago, according to court records.
On Oct. 17, around 8:13 p.m., the Dhaliwals went to meet two men — 20-year-old Manjot Mann and then-21-year-old Kanwar Sidhu — in Blaine at Mann’s workplace. They were meeting to discuss rumors Sidhu was allegedly spreading about a Dhaliwal family member.
Jagmeet Dhaliwal’s defense attorney Adrian Madrone said there are two “very different” versions of the events that happened next.
Madrone argued the assault charges should be treated as separate incidents in the case. He said the assault that occurred outside the business, related to the misdemeanor charge, was a misunderstanding. Madrone argued Jagmeet Dhaliwal forgot his glasses and couldn’t see well, and that when he and his brother approached the front door of the business and were confronted by Mann, Jagmeet Dhaliwal “was confused, startled and he reaches out and grabs an individual.” Madrone said Sukhdev Dhaliwal then intervenes, which would not be uncommon for a trained law enforcement officer.
Madrone said the stories differ about what happened inside the business. He said the Dhaliwal brothers and another witness will say that a conversation was started, but Sidhu gave a confrontational response. Jagmeet Dhaliwal then punched Sidhu several times, and Sukhdev Dhaliwal pulled his brother off Sidhu, Madrone said.
He said both victims, Sidhu and Mann, tell it differently, oftentimes not being able to keep the events of the evening straight. Madrone said there is no evidence for some of the injuries Sidhu said he sustained during the fight. He also said that in the several hours after the fight before calling 911, Sidhu made statements about getting revenge on the Dhaliwal brothers and getting Sukhdev Dhaliwal fired from his job.
Skagit County prosecutor Haley Sebens argued that both brothers participated in the fight and that threats were made. Sebens said Mann tried to shake hands with Jagmeet Dhaliwal outside the business, but instead they put hands on each other and Sukhdev Dhaliwal then punched Mann in the side of the head.
Sebens said the brothers went into the business, where they confronted Sidhu about the rumors and the conversation became physical. Sebens said Sidhu and Mann said both brothers participated in the attack, where Sidhu was punched, choked and kicked.
Sebens said that while the stories among the parties might differ, Sidhu’s injuries from the fight were not made up. Sebens argued Sidhu suffered a fracture near his eye, as well as severe bruising and redness around his neck, according to court documents.
Sukhdev Dhaliwal’s defense attorney Doug Hyldahl reserved his opening statements until he calls his first witness.