Mon, Jun 11, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Former Indian officer kills family, self in California

KNOWN HISTORY:Police in California knew of Avtar Singh’s past life as an officer in the Indian Army who was accused of killing a rights lawyer in Kashmir in 1996

AP, SELMA, CALIFORNIA

A former Indian Army officer wanted in a 1996 killing in the disputed Kashmir region killed his wife and two of their children in their California home before apparently taking his own life, authorities said.

Avtar Singh called police at about 6:15am on Saturday and told them that he had just killed four people, Fresno County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Curtice said.

MILITARY PAST

Selma police asked for assistance from the sheriff’s office because Singh was known to have a military background and was wanted by authorities in India for allegedly killing a human rights lawyer in 1996 in the disputed Kashmir region, Curtice said.

When a sheriff’s SWAT team entered the home they found the bodies of Singh, a woman believed to be his wife and two children, ages three and 15, Curtice said. All four appeared to have died from gunshot wounds.

A 17-year-old boy also found in the home was suffering from severe head trauma and was “barely alive,” Curtice said. The teen was taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery. His condition was not known.

Singh fled to the US after he was accused of killing lawyer Jaleel Andrabi in India-controlled Kashmir’s main city Srinagar.

Andrabi disappeared in March 1996 at the height of an anti-India uprising and his body was recovered 19 days later in a local river. He had been shot in the head and his eyes gouged out.

PREVIOUS ARREST

Singh, 47, was arrested by police in February last year when his wife reported that he had choked her, Selma Police Department Chief Myron Dyck said shortly after that arrest. After Singh was taken into custody, police discovered that he was being sought in India.

Several days later, India requested that the US arrest and extradite Singh. It was not clear on Saturday why Singh had remained free since the request.

Dyck did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Saturday about last year’s arrest and Selma police referred questions about Saturday’s incident to Fresno County sheriff’s officials.

Selma police last had contact with Singh about two months ago when he called to complain that reporters would not leave him alone because of the murder warrant, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims told the Fresno Bee.

Singh owned and operated Jay Truck Lines, a trucking company in Selma. Alli Adan, a driver for the company, said he spent time with Singh last week, including on Friday night, and Singh acted normally.

“He was a nice guy,” Adan told the newspaper. “I couldn’t believe it because I didn’t think he could do something like this.”

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