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US town shocked by Avtar Singh's suicide

Neighbors of an Indian family killed in a murder-suicide grappled with allegations Sunday that the man accused in the shooting in a small California agricultural town was a former Indian army officer wanted for years for murder in his homeland.

world Updated: Jun 12, 2012 00:32 IST

Neighbors of an Indian family killed in a murder-suicide grappled with allegations Sunday that the man accused in the shooting in a small California agricultural town was a former Indian army officer wanted for years for murder in his homeland.

News of Saturday's shooting boomeranged through the area's close-knit Indian community, which numbers 15,500 in Fresno County, including about 750 in Selma, a small town surrounded by vineyards and peach orchards and known as the "Raisin Capital of the World." The majority of Indians in the area are Punjabi Sikhs, like the family.

Authorities have said the former officer, Avtar Singh, shot his wife and two children and gravely wounded a third child early Saturday before turning the gun on himself. Investigators were still trying to determine a motive.

"Our community is completely shocked," said Rajbir Singh Pannu, president of the town's Sikh temple. "It's a really bad misfortune, especially for the children who died. Anybody who takes somebody's life, in our religion that's cowardice."

It was just more than a year ago that Singh was arrested after his wife said he had choked her.