On April 3, Nirmal Singh, a 70-year-old elderly Sikh man, was assaulted while on an early morning walk in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens, New York.
Mr. Singh was approached from behind and punched in the face by an unknown individual. He was left with a broken nose and severe bruising, and was taken to the hospital. He had been in Queens for just two weeks, while visiting from India.
The Sikh Coalition was retained by Mr. Singh and his son (who is located in Canada) shortly after the attack to provide direct resources including free legal services. In the aftermath of the attack, we remained in consistent contact with Mr. Singh, his family, law enforcement, and sangat leaders in Queens.
Since the day of the attack, the Sikh Coalition has been in touch with the NYPD. We provided them video of the attack, which was shared with us by community members who live in the area. The NYPD HCTF also has confirmed that this incident will be categorized as an anti-Sikh hate crime in NYPD hate crime data, and we remain engaged to ensure that proper categorization happens. Finally, the Sikh Coalition was also on the ground in Richmond Hill, and worked with many sangat leaders to provide support to the community.
On April 12, the Sikh Coalition learned that two more Sikh men were attacked and robbed in Richmond Hill, in the same area where Nirmal Singh was assaulted less than 10 days prior. The Sikh Coalition was not retained by the individuals and we are keeping their names anonymous out of respect for their privacy. Later that same day, one of the two alleged attackers, Hezekiah Coleman, was arrested and charged with two counts of robbery classified as a hate crime, one count of robbery, one count of assault classified as a hate crime, and one count of aggravated harassment for his involvement in the April 12 incident.
On April 14, Vernon Douglas, who matched the photo and video surveillance from the April 3 incident and was identified by one of the April 12 victims, was arrested and charged with 30 separate counts for his actions in both incidents, including hate crime assault, assault, aggravated harassment.
WHY IT MATTERS
Hate crimes damage the lives of survivors, their families, and the communities in which they live. When Sikhs are targeted because of hate, it is imperative that law enforcement authorities document these attacks as hate crimes and prosecutors pursue hate crime charges. The Sikh Coalition is committed to ensuring that the vulnerable communities feel safe and that law enforcement investigate and correctly categorize these attacks as anti-Sikh hate crimes.
Even though Mr. Nirmal Singh has since returned to India, where he can receive care and support from his family, he and his son have expressed that they see this attack on him as an attack on all those who maintain articles of faith. No one deserves to be targeted by hate because of how they look, how they worship, or any other reason. The Sikh Coalition will continue to provide free legal support to Sikh Americans who are discriminated against or subject to bias because of their faith.
We also remind everyone that no one community is deserving of–or responsible for–hate crimes. In these difficult moments, anti-Black racism is directly harmful to our shared efforts to stop the hate violence that endangers us all.