Man who beat Muslim store owner in Astoria rearrested on hate crime charge

Photo by Larry Mayberry

The alleged assailant who walked into Sarker Haque’s food store in Astoria and beat him last month was rearrested on New Year’s Day after police declared the assault a hate crime.

The assault, which occurred on Dec. 5 in Fatima’s Food Market at 21-37 21st Ave., received attention after Haque revealed that his attacker — later identified as Piro Kolvani,55, of Jacksonville, Florida — said “I kill Muslims” before repeatedly hitting him in the face. Haque suffered a black eye, a laceration to his lips and bruising.

After the attack, Astoria residents rallied together to deliver positive messages in the form of posters and cards to the store owner. A Facebook group was started to coordinate the well wishes and residents encouraged each other to shop at Haque’s store to show their support.

Originally, police issued Kolvani a desk appearance ticket ordering him to return to court on Jan. 12. But after Haque reported the perpetrator’s comments to police, investigators identified the attack as a bias hate crime.

According to a NYPD spokeswoman, Kolvani was arrested on Jan. 1 and charged with third-degree assault as a hate crime, third-degree assault, second-degree aggravated harassment and second-degree harassment.

Kolvani was arraigned today and released on his own recognizance, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. He was ordered to appear in court on Feb. 11 and faces up to four years in prison if he is found guilty.

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, along with other elected officials in Astoria, held a press conference several days after the attack to denounce Kolvani’s actions.

“I was heartened to learn that the criminal who viciously attacked Sarker Haque has been rearrested and charged with a hate crime,” Simotas said. “These felony charges reflect the serious nature of the crime against Mr. Haque and state unequivocally that hate and violence have no home in our community. I commend the New York City Police Department and, particularly, the 114th Precinct for their hard work and thoughtful handling of this case.”

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