Members of Sikh temple frustrated by lack of charges from April brawl

GREENWOOD, Ind. – Several members of Greenwood’s Sikh temple say they’re frustrated by a lack of charges stemming from the April 15 brawl that left several people injured, including a 13-year-old girl who suffered long-term damage from pepper spray.

The family of Manreet Mahal say the teenage girl is still undergoing therapy to retrain her vocal chords because of damage caused by a man who pepper sprayed several people during the brawl.

“I felt like somebody was choking me,” Manreet Mahal said. “I couldn’t breathe, it hurt a lot.”

“I quickly got out of there and just started coughing,” she said. “I had to go inside an ambulance and they took care of me.”

Manreet’s older brother says he’s angry that the man who hurt his sister has not been charged in the incident.

“I feel like the system has pretty much failed us,” said Sukhjinder Mahal. “We trusted the law, we thought something would happen.”

The lack of charges at this point is partially the result of a disagreement between Greenwood police and Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper. Greenwood police have asked Cooper to file charges against four people they identified in security video of the fight. One of those people is the man they believe pepper sprayed Manreet Mahal. But Cooper says he doesn’t want to file charges until police can identify everyone involved in the brawl.

“I want to be fair to everybody that was involved and everybody that was committing a crime should be charged with a crime,” Cooper said.

The brawl is believed to have started as a dispute over leadership at the temple. Police said every law enforcement officer in Johnson County, and some from outside the county, responded to the incident. Cooper says charging a handful of people in a brawl involving 30 to 40 people isn’t the best way to handle the case.

“We have a video tape with all the people that were committing crimes on there,” Cooper said. “It should not be that hard to identify those people and hold them responsible for what they did.”

Greenwood police have said identifying everyone involved in the brawl could prove to be impossible, especially since some of the potential suspects are believed to be from out of town. Chief John Laut believes charging the suspects they have identified could provide detectives with more names to work with.

Cooper says he does expect to file charges in the case at some point, but he wants detectives to continue working to identify more suspects.

“If that is all the evidence that we can collect then yes, their case would be individually reviewed,” Cooper said. “I am just not at a point right now that I believe that the investigation has been completed. There are other people that can be identified and charged without any question in my mind.”

Cooper says he plans to meet next week with several family members and injury victims from the brawl. Temple members say they plan to bring several names of potential suspects to that meeting.

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