A Brooklyn man was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens on Saturday, April 16, and charged in the Richmond Hill bias attacks that left three Sikh men injured over the last two weeks, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
Brooklyn resident Vernon Douglas, 19, was charged with hate crimes for allegedly attacking and robbing three men in separate incidents near the intersection of 95th Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard between April 3 and April 12. A second man, Hezekia Coleman, 20, of Richmond Hill, is also charged with Douglas in connection to one of the attacks.
Douglas was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Anthony Battisti on a 13-count criminal complaint charging him with robbery in the first and second degree as a hate crime, assault in the second degree of an elderly person over 65, three counts of assault in the third degree as a hate crime and three counts of aggravated harassment in the second degree as a hate crime.
Coleman, of 118th Street in Richmond Hill, was arraigned Wednesday before Queens Criminal Court Judge Mary Lentz on a five-count complaint charging him with robbery in the first and second degree and assault in the second degree.
According to the criminal charges, at approximately 6:45 a.m. on April 3, Douglas approached 70-year-old Nirmal Singh as he was walking to the Sikh Cultural Society Temple when the victim was assaulted near the intersection of 95th Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard. The victim, a tourist from Canada, was wearing a turban. Doulas allegedly punched the victim several times in the face and head. The victim was transported by private means to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he was treated for a broken nose and bruising to his right eye.
According to the complaint, during the second incident at the same location on April 12, at approximately 7 a.m., Douglas, shirtless and carrying a stick, approached a 45-year-old man wearing a turban. Douglas allegedly hit the victim several times with the stick, striking him in the head and face and then punched him several times, again aiming for the man’s head and face. During the volley of blows, the victim’s wallet was dislodged from his pocket and fell to the ground. The defendant allegedly picked it up, removed $300 in cash, threw the wallet to the ground and then fled the scene. The victim was taken to a local hospital, where he required stitches to his forehead and treatment for his injuries.
Minutes later, at the same location, the defendant, still shirtless, approached a third victim, 58, and allegedly hit him multiple times in the head and face with a stick, causing the man’s turban to fall from his head. Douglas then pitched up the head wrap and allegedly pulled the victim’s beard. At the time, defendant Coleman allegedly approached the victim and punched him multiple times, then threatened to shoot him. Douglas allegedly took $200 from the victim’s pocket and ran away. The victim was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for his injuries. The investigation was handled by the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force.
“This defendant is accused of targeting three men, all members of the Sikh community who wore turbans at the time of the attacks,” Katz said. “We will not tolerate beatings motivated by hate in the borough of Queens – the most diverse county in the world. Our diversity is our strength and no acts of violence will undermine who we are. This defendant, along with his co-defendant, will be held to account for the charges of which they are accused.”
If convicted, both Douglas and Coleman face up to 25 years in prison.