By Monica Luhar, India-West Staff Reporter, April 19, 2012
Rahul Sharma, a 20-year-old Indian American student who lived with his parents and siblings in Fremont, Calif., was shot in the head and found unconscious near his home April 5 at about 10:54 p.m.
After being taken to the San Jose Regional Medical Center, he died of his injuries, according to the Fremont Police Department.
Fremont Police Detective Bill Veteran told India-West that the shooting is being investigated as a homicide. “It’s still very much an open investigation and our investigators are still following up on our leads,” he said.
“We have no information at this point to suggest it was hate motivated.”
Police have released a composite sketch of a “possible suspect” in the case, who is described as “a black male in his 20s, wearing a white t-shirt and earrings in both ears.”
In an exclusive interview with India-West at the family’s home here, with the sobs of family members in the background, Pran Sharma, the victim’s father, said through an interpreter provided by India-West, “Only criminals killed my son, not God.”
The grieving father said his son, who had been attending Fremont Unified School District’s adult school program for more than 18 months to get his GED, had a thirst for knowledge, loved to write and wanted to improve his English skills.
The young man spent a lot of time at home, helping his family, studying, taking care of his three siblings and a one-year-old, and attending adult school courses, he added.
“Rahul was a very hard-working student who was taking classes to improve his reading and mathematics skills. He was a very family-oriented young man who was well liked by his peers and was dedicated to his studies,” Fremont Unified School District told India-West via e-mail.
“He will be missed by the students and staff at Fremont Adult School,” the district added.
Pran Sharma, a Jalandhar-born immigrant, said that his family lives a simple life free from outside influences. He said his children never watched shows or films that screened vulgarity, and that the family never owned cell phones, just a landline.
Sharma described his son as analytical and eager to fix and build things. He said that Rahul was an amiable and likeable person who was respected by family friends and parents. Rahul was often the one who would give advice to younger children about “not staying out too late” and “obeying parents.”
Sharma noted that his son was generally happy, disliked sad movies and liked to watch cartoons and films with happy endings.
The elder Sharma said he moved with his family to the United States in 2005 to have a better life. He said they endured many hardships and often worked many jobs and stayed at gurdwaras.
Sharma said he was struggling to find a job for the past eight months and was in the process of officially launching a produce market in Oakland on April 6, and expected his son to assist him.
His wife, he added, has been in a state of shock and depression since the day the shooting occurred and was later hospitalized. Rahul’s siblings have been in disbelief that their brother is no longer alive, the father said. They continue to look for him with the hope that he may walk in the door, Sharma said.
Asked if the Sharma family had any idea if Rahul had been bullied or showed any behavioral changes recently, the family members said they didn’t see any unusual behavior before his death.
The father told India-West his son went to adult school on April 5, called one of his sisters, and told her that one of his friends would drop him off at home later in the afternoon, instead of his usual arrival time at noon.
According to Sharma, around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. that day, Rahul asked his mother to drop him off at a nearby location to meet a friend. The events that followed become a little blurry, noted Sharma.
Sharma explained that Rahul returned home in the evening, had a meal with his mother, and said he wanted to go on his usual evening walk.
Sharma said his wife tried to persuade their son to go to sleep instead. Rahul replied that he wanted to work off the meal and would be back in 10 minutes. He never returned.
News sources have also reported that Sharma said his son received a phone call late at night, and then left his home. “I assume he went out at night with his friend and was shot later,” Sharma told one reporter.
Sharma told India-West that the family has not been contacted by community leaders since the incident, and that they were informed by police about their son’s killing at around 3 a.m. Police had been dispatched to 4273 Central Avenue, where they found Rahul’s body in a driveway.
When asked what he would say if given the chance to confront his son’s killer or killers, Sharma said, “Whatever you did, didn’t you remember your wife, child, mother, father and the pain that you caused.”
Anyone with information about the incident should contact the Fremont Police Department’s Investigative Unit at (510) 790-6900 or the general line at (510) 790-6800.
The killing has caused shock and concern in the Indian American community in this East Bay city.
“We are very much concerned about this tragic incident and are attempting to ascertain further details surrounding this crime. Our condolences go out to Rahul Sharma’s family and friends,” South Asian Bar Association co-president Shaamini Babu told India-West.
“We hope that law enforcement will obtain leads and efficiently conduct investigations leading to an arrest,” she said.
Sharma hopes to someday create a foundation that will help other victims of violence with the hope that a tragedy like the one he and his family have experienced will never happen again.