A first look inside a violent dispute in a Sikh Temple through surveillance cameras

Posted at 10:41 PM, Dec 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-17 22:41:16-05

PORTAGE, Mich. -- The Sikh temple in Portage is reserved for prayer and peace, but surveillance video we’re seeing for the first time tells a different story. Swords were swung in a fight that involved about 30 people.

FOX 17 News filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the Portage Police Department to obtain surveillance video inside the temple and police paperwork that includes what officers observed when they arrived on scene, plus interviews with witnesses, suspects, and victims.

The dispute is a complicated one, made more confusing because everyone has a different version of what happened and who started it.

“There was a little bit of pushing going on but the majority of it had been broken up already,’ said Portage Police Lt. Brian Vandenbrink.

Pictures taken at the scene by police show bloodied sheets, two ceremonial swords, and a ceremonial dagger. The pictures are just pieces of the puzzle Portage Police have put together.

The violent outbreak sent four people to the hospital.

“One lady had a cut on her hand, and another gentleman was bleeding from the forehead or somewhere near his eyes,” said Lt. Vandenbrink.

Police documents show the fight allegedly began over a member of the temple who had previously egged the priest’s home. The member had not yet apologized to the community, so he wasn’t allowed to services, or so that’s what some thought. However, that night the member came anyway and wanted to play the drums during the service.

An already divided temple with fighting factions was not happy with this. Surveillance video shows people violently swinging at each other, but the camera’s limited scope doesn’t show who started it or who drew the swords first.

“Quite a lot of people, quite a lot of video to watch,” said Lt. Vandenbrink.

The temple is no stranger to feuds. “We have been working with them for about a year and a half now,” said Vandenbrink. "There have been some differences in control of the church. There are two different factions in the church, really. There’s a control issue involving a smaller group wanting control over the larger group in there."

Portage Public Safety said they turned over their report to the prosecutor’s office requesting charges on both sides of the dispute. The prosecutor’s office is reviewing the case but has made no decisions yet.