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Charlotte Sikhs Voice Safety Concerns

A child vies photos of the shooting victims in Wisconsin. Photo: Michael Tomsic

Two weeks after a gunman killed six people and himself at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Charlotte’s Sikh community voiced its safety concerns Sunday with federal and local law enforcement agencies.

After walking through the front doors of the Sikh temple in Charlotte, the first thing everyone sees is six photos. A sign above them reads, “Remembering the victims.”

Right after the shooting in suburban Milwaukee, local U.S. attorney Anne Tompkins reached out to a Sikh leader in Charlotte.

"And I promised him that we would come out and speak with them and mourn with them and discuss ways that we can prevent something like that from ever happening again," Tompkins said.

On Sunday, Tompkins, an FBI agent, other federal officials and local police took off their shoes, covered their heads with cloth, and entered Charlotte’s Sikh temple.

While about 150 people were worshipping, singing from the Sikh holy scripture, Tompkins and the others met with a small group of Sikhs to answer their questions and simply get to know each other.

Afterward, Tompkins said she can’t guarantee anyone’s safety.

"But what we can guarantee is that they know who we are, we know who they are, and that we are here to protect them," Tompkins said.

The person Tompkins initially contacted here is Pushpinder Singh Garcha, a leader for United Sikhs. He said the meeting at his temple provided a clear message.

"We were able to show the people that we have a voice," Singh Garcha said. "We have a place we can go to. When the community wants to dial 911, we have a place to go to."

Fellow Sikh Ajay Singh agreed. He’s worshipped here for about a decade, and he said the meeting was a good step toward making his community safer and better understood.

"I'm optimistic and others are optimistic in our community that we will move forward because of the relationships that we are building," Singh said.

And as Singh and the other worshippers pulled out of the long driveway that leads to their temple, a police car idled at the end of it.