By Sarina Trangle
Police arrested a Long Island man and charged him with attempted murder and assault as hate crimes in the hit-and-run of a Sikh man in Ozone Park in late July, the NYPD said.
The Police Department announced Monday that officers arrested Joseph Caleca, 55, of Setauket, L.I.
The attempted murder and assault as hate crimes charges come after the Sikh community rallied at the spot where Caleca allegedly struck Sandeep Singh with a GMC Sierra pick-up truck and dragged his body several feet just past midnight July 30, according to police.
While gathered at the corner of 101st Avenue and 99th Street earlier this month, Sikh leaders urged the NYPD to more aggressively investigate the incident and consider getting the FBI involved.
Sikhs have become targets after Sept. 11 because some erroneously identify the turbans men wear as articles associated with Islam or terrorism.
Singh’s relatives alleged that the driver called him a terrorist, compared him to Osama bin Laden and told him to “go back to your country.”
The NYPD said Singh and Caleca got into a verbal argument when Singh opened the door to a parked car, which prevented Caleca from driving past.
In the middle of the dispute, police said Caleca allegedly accelerated slightly, bumping Singh and then took off, dragging him several feet before fleeing the scene.
Singh was rushed to Jamaica Hospital.
His family said he required stomach surgery due to internal injuries and would need skin grafting for severe road rash up and down his back.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at [email protected].