By Sarina Trangle
The turban that made a 29-year-old Sikh man the target in a vicious hit-and-run in Ozone Park last week also helped him emerge from the attack without a scratch on his head, the victim’s family said.
The Sikh Coalition, a national advocacy group for members of the Sikh faith, and the Richmond Hill-based Sikh Cultural Society called on police to more aggressively investigate a July 30 hit-and-run they said followed the driver’s use of a slur.
Many of the more than 100 crowded at the corner of 101st Avenue and 99th Street Tuesday noted Sikhs across the world were focusing on fighting bias while commemorating six worshippers who were shot dead at a Wisconsin temple by a neo-Nazi Aug. 5, 2012.
“We are here today because, yet again, another Sikh has suffered a hate crime,” Sikh Coalition co-founder Amardeep Singh said, noting Sikhs have been targeted after Sept. 11, 2001, because of erroneous assumptions that their turbans signify they are Muslims or terrorists. “Our ancestors fought with their lives so that we can maintain our turbans on our head. And Sandeep Singh clung to his life with a turban on his head, but he never gave it up.”
Surrounded by dozens with signs reading “End hate” and “Keep Sikhs safe,” the wife and brother of Sandeep Singh, 29, said the driver of a light-colored Series Sierra pickup truck called him a terrorist before striking him and dragging his body several feet at around midnight July 30.
Prabhpreet Kaur, Singh’s wife, said he was leaving a restaurant near his Ozone Park construction business when he got into an argument with the driver.
“He was walking too slow for the gentleman, or actually the animal. And he said something about, ‘Go back to your country, bin Laden,’” Kaur said. “When Sandeep protested, the man ran him over, dragged him 30 feet under the truck and left him to die.”
The Police Department said it has not determined whether the hit-and-run was a hate crime and is still looking for the driver.
Singh remains in Jamaica Hospital in serious condition after surgery in his stomach due to internal bleeding, according to Kaur.
“He had pipes in his nose, mouth, bruises all over,” she said. “His whole back, from his neck to his lower back, he has really bad road rash that’s going to need skin grafting.”
His brother, Navdeep Singh, said Singh’s head remained unscathed thanks to his turban.
“His turban saved his life. There is no injury on his head, nothing, no scratch on his head,” Navdeep Singh said.
The Sikh Coalition said the Police Department did not confirm its hate crime task force was investigating the incident until community leaders met with the 102nd Precinct Monday.
Singh’s brother obtained surveillance clips of the incident from local bodegas and brought it to the precinct, but was dismayed the NYPD had not already sought such evidence.
“I want justice for my brother,” he said. “They have to take this case very seriously because it’s attempted murder plus it’s a hate crime.”
The NYPD did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the family’s criticism.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at [email protected].