A Bellingham man must serve seven months of jail time for firing a gun at a Sikh festival near Lynden, a Whatcom County judge ruled has ruled.
More than a thousand people were celebrating Vaisakhi, a Sikh festival and parade that marks the Punjabi New Year, at the Guru Nanak Sikh temple Saturday, April 26, 2014.
A group of men got into an altercation around 2:30 p.m. with Balwinder Singh Nagra, 43, in the parking lot of the temple at 176 E. Pole Road, according to charging papers.
A single shot rang out.
Minutes later sheriff’s deputies found the alleged shooter, Nagra, talking on a cellphone as he leaned against a convertible Dodge Viper. Nagra stated he’d been attacked by three men as he sat in the car with the top down, and that one of the men told another to get a gun, according to the charges.
Nagra told deputies he fired his own handgun, a .45-caliber Para Warthog, in self-defense.
The pistol was found wedged between a car seat and the center console. One round of Federal-brand ammo was still in the chamber, and three more were left in the clip.
One .45-caliber bullet of Federal ammo had pierced two front windows of a Toyota Camry parked in a field 150 yards away, investigators found. The bullet struck a black Honda Civic, too, near its rear passenger door.
A spent casing was found within 30 yards of the Dodge Viper. Nagra would not tell police how he knew the men. He was arrested on suspicion of drive-by shooting.
That afternoon, the Sikh celebration went on as planned.
Nagra pleaded guilty in December to malicious mischief in the first degree, reckless endangerment, and illegal aiming or discharging a firearm.
At a sentencing hearing Tuesday, March 15, the deputy prosecutor, Christopher Quinn, alleged the shot had been fired as the men were walking away from Nagra. Quinn emphasized the terror that many festival attendees must have felt, with an unknown gunman in a crowded space.
(Less than two years earlier, six people were shot to death by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.)
At the hearing the defense attorney, Ziad Youssef, maintained that Nagra fired in self-defense. He told the judge that one of the three assailants had been armed with a gun at the time of the confrontation. A total of three witnesses came forward — long after the shooting, Youssef said — to corroborate that story.
Nagra held a concealed pistol license for over 15 years, without any problems, Youssef said. The defendant had one prior mark on his record, a disorderly conduct conviction from 2008.
Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis sentenced Nagra to seven months of jail time, as recommended by the plea deal.
Nagra declined to speak at the hearing on Tuesday.