Martinez, Calif. – The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office is firm in its opposition to CDCR’s recommendation for resentencing a man serving 50 years to life for murder.
58-year-old Joga Singh Sandher is currently an inmate at San Quentin State Prison for killing Ajmer Singh Malhi during a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in El Sobrante in 2000. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has recommended that Sandher serve a lesser sentence. The matter was heard today before the Honorable Judge Joni T. Hiramoto.
On Sunday January 23rd, 2000, at approximately, 2:00 pm the Sunday service was coming to a close at the El Sobrante Gurdwara Sahib, the Sikh Center of the San Francisco Bay Area. Hundreds of people were gathered to worship. At one point during the service, the defendant — who had addressed the congregation a week prior — was denied his request to address the congregation a second time.
After being denied an opportunity to speak, Sandher took his wife and children out to his vehicle, retrieved an M-16 military rifle, and returned to the temple where he yelled, “I will kill you all” as he began shooting.
Sandher chased after Malhi while firing his weapon, injuring another victim in the knee. Sandher then shot and killed Malhi — who was trying to take cover behind some pillars in the temple. Malhi’s 96-year-old father initially disarmed Sandher as other members of the temple rushed to subdue the gunman. At the time of his death, 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.
The court is weighing evidence from the CDCR, a mental health professional, and supporters on both sides to determine if Sandher is an unreasonable risk of danger to community safety. In the courtroom today were Malhi’s family and dozens of members of a Sikh gurdwara who also firmly oppose any resentencing actions by the court.
During the trial, Sandher claimed the tenth Guru told him to get his gun and punish Malhi. Sandher’s defense attorney claimed he suffered from a delusional disorder due to the death of his father and mismanaging his failing limousine business. The court rejected Sandher’s mental health defense saying he had a comprehension of the legal and moral categories of right and wrong.
At today’s hearing, Sandher’s attorney called Dr. Teo Earnst to testify on Sandher’s current mental state. Dr. Earnst said that Sandher suffered from Bipolar Disorder 1 with psychotic features, but was on medication to control any manic episodes.
Deputy District Attorney Caleb Webster, called Ajmer Singh Malhi’s youngest son, daughter, and wife to provide statements. All three made impassioned pleas to the court not to augment the 50 year to life term Sandher is serving for the murder inside the house of worship.
The matter was taken under submission by the court. A determination to affirm or deny the CDCR’s recommendation will occur on August 12, 2022.