A Sikh taxi driver from Ozone Park was assaulted and robbed of his turban while working in the Bronx early Sunday morning in a turn of events that is now being investigated by police as a hate crime, it was reported.
According to the Daily News, Harkirat Singh, 25, an immigrant from Punjab, India, had his turban ripped off of his head by a drunk, belligerent passenger who rode in his cab with his three friends on the morning of April 16.
As reported, three men and one woman entered Singh’s cab at around 5 a.m. at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 30th Street in Manhattan and said that they wanted to go to East 165th Street and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. When Singh reached that intersection, the passengers said that he took them to the wrong place.
The passengers, who were drunk at the time, could not give Singh a straight answer on where to go next. Then the passengers started to bang on the plastic partition in his cab and yelling hateful slurs.
“They’re using bad words, also. They said, ‘Ali Baba, f–k you,’” Singh told the Daily News.
Singh told the passengers to leave his cab and pay the $41.76 fare. The woman paid the fare after Singh called 911, but then one of the male passengers, described by police as a clean-shaven white Hispanic man in his 20s, standing 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing 160 pounds, got back into the cab and tried to smash the meter.
The suspect then punched Singh in the arm and pulled Singh’s turban off of his head.
“After that, he picked off my turban from my head,” Singh was quoted as saying in the Daily News. “He wanted to snatch my phone also … It was too horrible.”
Singh reportedly pleaded with the suspect to calm down, but the group fled the area with Singh’s turban, which is a primary symbol of his faith.
Singh was able to take a picture of two of the passengers from that night. Police say they are only seeking one of the passengers as a suspect but want to speak to the others as well. The police have confirmed that they are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Photo: Harkirat Singh