NEVADA COUNTY -- A clerk at a Nevada County smoke shop has been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a customer.
Nevada County sheriff’s investigators say the assault happened Sunday in the back of Hot Spot Smoke Shop off Highway 49 near Lake of the Pines. The Combie Road store is in a shopping mall with a grocery store, real estate businesses and medical offices.
While many residents said the business is out of character for the small, family-oriented community, no one could recall if there had been any trouble there prior to Sunday’s incident.
Investigators say a 20-year-old woman was trying to buy some tobacco products from 62-year-old clerk Ranjit Singh but he told her she was underage. Customers must be 21 years old to buy tobacco products in California.
They then say Singh offered to sell her items in the back room, outside the view of security cameras.
According to her account, Singh tried to get her to drink a glass of hard liquor, pushed her into the restroom, exposed himself, groped her and demanded sexual favors.
Deputies say the woman was able to escape when Singh was distracted by another customer coming into the store.
“Are you serious because I don't see it?” said Eryn Robinson, a regular customer to the smoke shop who has dealt with Singh many times before. “He’s so quiet all the time and he just kind of keeps to himself. I don’t know, I don't see it.”
The shop was open Monday and manned by the brother of the store owner. He told FOX40 Singh had worked at the store for around two years and usually worked there by himself.
He was equally shocked at the arrest.
While there were no other witnesses to the incident, security cameras can potentially show the woman being taken to the back room and escaping the shop. There is also the person who entered the shop during the incident. Investigators are not saying if they have talked that person.
Singh has been charged with false imprisonment, kidnapping and sexual battery.
Sheriff’s detectives are withholding details of what happened and say they have other evidence besides the woman’s account.
In the meantime, investigators are looking for any more information and incidents that may not have been reported to them involving Singh.