hate crime

Two Men Charged in Hate Crime Attack Spree Targeting Sikh Men in Queens

The suspects from Brooklyn and Queens face up to 25 years in prison if convicted

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Two men were formally charged this week in connection to a string of attacks against three Sikh men in Queens, prosecutors said.

Vernon Douglas, 19, was arrested Thursday after investigators said he approached a 70-year-old man in traditional Sikh clothing, and punched him in the face unprovoked just before 7 a.m. near 95th Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard in Richmond Hill on April 3.

The victim, identified by the Sikh Coalition as Nirmal Singh, suffered a broken nose and bruises to his face.

The Sikh Coalition said that Singh chose to return to India after the attack in order to be with his family.

"My father is very grateful that his attacker has been identified and arrested so that he cannot harm others," Manjit Singh, the victim's son who lives in Canada, said in a statement provided by the Sikh Coalition. "Our family sees this sad incident as an assault not just on him, but on all who wear turbans and other articles of faith."

Prosecutors allege Douglas struck again on April 12, targeting two more Sikh men with a stick, which the 19-year-old used to strike both men in separate attacks — in the same place as the other victim. He's also accused of stealing several hundred dollars from each man.

One of the victims needed stitches in his forehead after Douglas repeatedly punched him in the face, according to District Attorney Melinda Katz. The second man had his turban knocked to the ground when Douglas allegedly struck.

A second man, Hezekiah Coleman, was also arrested after Tuesday's attack, accused of joining throwing punches and threatening to shoot one of the victims. He has been charged with assault and robbery.

Douglas, meanwhile, is facing a 13-count criminal complaint that includes hate crime charges of assault, robbery and aggravated harassment.

Both men faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, Katz said Saturday. Attorney information for Douglas and Coleman was not immediately known.

New York State Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar tweeted on Thursday about the second man also arrested for an attack on two other Sikh men, Gurjar Singh and Sanijan Singh Ghotra.

Activist Japneet Singh, who led a rally on Thursday to denounce the violence against the Sikh community, said that Gurjar Singh was attacked from behind while walking, and the attacker removed his turban and pulled his beard.

"This hate does not belong in our city, does not belong in our state, does not belong in our country," Japneet Singh said.

Ghotra said that a man hit him in the head with a stick, and also had his turban knocked off. He said he was knocked to the ground as a second man joined in the attack.

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