Attack on Richmond Hill Sikh man a hate crime: Avella

Councilman Tony Avella (c.) stands with Sikh leaders at the site of an assault in Jackson Heights that left a Sikh man blind in one eye. Photo courtesy Tony Avella
By Jeremy Walsh

A week after a brutal attack in Jackson Heights left a young Sikh man sightless in one eye, the Sikh community and City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) called on the Police Department to pursue the case as a hate crime.

“This latest bias attack against a member of the Sikh community is an appalling example of ignorance and fear rearing its ugly head,” Avella said Saturday at a rally in front of the supermarket where the attack occurred. “As New Yorkers, we should do everything in our power to ensure that these types of senseless and hateful acts do not go unpunished.”

Jasmir Singh, 21, of Richmond Hill, was walking along 37th Avenue shortly after 4 a.m. Jan. 18 when he and his friend were accosted by three men.

“They were making remarks about my hair, beard, threatening to cut it,” he told a news conference at Elmhurst Hospital Jan. 23. Singh and his friend made their way into an all−night supermarket, but the men followed him in and attacked him.

Singh was stabbed in the eye with a broken bottle during the attack, which left him blind in that eye, Sikh leaders said.

Police arrested Jackson Heights residents Kevin Burgos, 21, and Shaban Rahman, 16. They were arraigned the next day on charges of gang assault and attempted robbery. Burgos was held on $100,000 bail and Rahman on $150,000 bail, police said.

Singh believes the men targeted him specifically because he was a Sikh.

Police and the Queens district attorney’s office interviewed Singh for a second time Friday and took him to the scene of the incident to recreate the attack, Sikh leaders said.

“It never gets easier each time we have to assist a victim of hate crime,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, legal director for the United Sikhs. “The crime is horrific and the victim suffers alone both physically and emotionally.”

The attack on Singh was not the only incident of violence against Sikhs in Queens in recent years, the organization said.

On Jan. 14, 2008, Baljeet Singh, a 63−year−old Sikh man was attacked by a man who lived next to the Sikh temple on 95th Avenue in Jamaica. The suspect was charged with assault after beating Baljeet Singh and calling him an Arab, the Sikh group said. Police did not charge the suspect with a hate crime.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

More from Around New York