Home Contra Costa County Board of Parole Hearing Denies Early Release of Killer in Sikh Temple Shooting

Board of Parole Hearing Denies Early Release of Killer in Sikh Temple Shooting

Press Release

by ECT
District Attorney

Martinez, Calif. – A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Parole Board is denying the early release of a man who murdered Ajmer Singh Malhi in El Sobrante 22 years ago.

On Thursday, a Board of Parole hearing for 58-year-old Joga Singh Sandher found that he was not suitable for parole. The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office requested that the Board deny early parole for Sandher — and they agreed. Absent a change in circumstances, Sandher won’t be eligible for parole for ten years.

The Board’s ruling is the second time in recent months that Sandher has been found to pose an unreasonable risk to public safety. In August, after considering reports from the CDCR, the testimony of a mental health expert, and statements from supporters from both sides, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Joni T. Hiramoto denied a request by CDCR to resentence Sandher to a lower term. At Thursday’s Parole Suitability Hearing, a panel found if Sandher were to be released, the danger he posed to the community was far higher than the information Sandher presented that he was not a risk.

Sandher was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing Ajmer Singh Malhi on January 23rd, 2000. The incident happened during worship service at the El Sobrante Gurdwara Sahib, the Sikh Center of the San Francisco Bay Area. After screaming “I will kill you all,” Sandher chased Malhi through the temple with an M-16 military rifle and eventually shot and killed him. At the time of his death, Mr. Malhi was married, the father of three children, a leader in his teacher’s union, and a math teacher at Skyline High School in Oakland.

Deputy District Attorney Caleb Webster, who represented the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office at the suitability hearing, said: “Even in a world where mass shootings have become all too commonplace, Sandher’s actions in January 2000 still shock the conscience. His spiteful, brazen killing did irreparable harm not only to those who knew and loved Mr. Malhi, but to the entire Sikh community. The panel’s well-considered finding of unsuitability ensures Sandher continues to serve the fair sentence that was imposed, which promotes community safety and builds public trust.”

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