More than a hundred Sikhs from Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and surrounding neighborhoods gathered Tuesday morning to demand justice for one of their own, who was nearly killed in a hit-and-run accident last week many believe was yet another hate crime perpetrated against their community.
Sandeep Singh, 29, was standing outside his office at 99th Street and 101st Avenue in Ozone Park shortly after midnight on July 30 when an altercation occurred between him and a man driving a white pickup truck. According to a witness who was at the scene, the driver began yelling racial slurs, called Singh "a terrorist" and telling him to "go back to your country."
Singh then stood in front of the truck to keep the man from leaving while a friend called the police, but the driver ran him over, dragging him about 30 feet eastbound on 101st Avenue. He was taken to the hospital where he remains, recovering from his injuries.
Elected officials and Singh's wife and brother spoke to the press at the rally Tuesday, calling on the perpetrator to be found and brought to justice, and again seeking understanding of Sikhs.
"My husband is strong," said Prabhpreet Kaur, Singh's wife. "He fought for his life and with God's grace, he will survive."
Kaur said her husband told her the perpetrator used racial and ethnic slurs against him, and she believes the incident to be a hate crime. She read a statement from Singh in which he said he was attacked for his religion and wanted to see justice serviced "so no one else goes through what I have been through."
Officials decried the incident.
"This community shouldn't have the label as the place of a hate crime," said Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), who represents this section of Ozone Park.
It was noted that the rally was held two years after a man gunned down six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in a hate crime.
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), who represents a large Sikh community, said he had "full confidence" that the NYPD will investigate the case thoroughly.
The Sikh community, which has close ties with the 102nd Precinct, met with police at the precinct house on Monday. Some expressed frustration at the speed of the investigation. Many wanted it to be labeled a hate crime, and noted that their brothers and sisters have repeatedly been the target of bias attacks, especially since 9/11 and mainly due to their long beards and turbans giving the erroneous impression that they are Muslim.
“Sandeep is very fortunate to be alive, but we want more law enforcement resources devoted to finding the hate attacker,” said Amardeep Singh, program director for the Sikh Coalition. “Given that this attack was preceded by racial and religious slurs, it is an attack not only on Sandeep but also on the whole Sikh community. We call on the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI to work with the NYPD to investigate it as a hate crime.”