A Jamaica man was criminally charged with manslaughter and assault as a hate crime on Oct. 31 in Queens Supreme Court in the death of 66-year-old Jasmer Singh, just two days after the Sikh community gathered at a South Richmond Hill temple in an emotional call for justice.
Gilbert Augustin, 30, of 111th Avenue, was arraigned on a 20-count indictment charging him with manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime; manslaughter in the first degree; assault in the second degree as a hate crime and a slew of other crimes after he allegedly became enraged following a vehicular collision with Singh and killed him.
According to the charges, Singh was driving a blue Toyota on the Van Wyck Expressway just before noon on Oct. 19, when he collided with a black Ford Mustang driven by Augustin. Immediately following the collision, Singh and Augustin pulled over in front of 87-34 Van Wyck Exwy. in Kew Gardens to assess the damage. A witness observed Augustin get out of his car and approach Singh, who remained seated in his vehicle, and engaged him in a verbal dispute with the victim.
During the dispute, the witness heard Augustin say to Singh, “No police, no police.” The witness also heard Augustin repeatedly refer to Singh as “Turban man,” according to the charges. While arguing angrily with Singh, Augustin told the victim that he was not going to allow him to go home and did not want him to call the police. According to witness testimony and video surveillance, Augustin reached into Singh’s car and grabbed Singh’s cell phone. Singh got out of his car and followed Augustin, who appeared to be holding two phones. The pair appeared to argue. Singh eventually recovered his phone.
As Singh was walking back to his car, Augustin punched him three times in the head and face, according to the charges. One of the punches caused Singh’s turban to come flying off his head. As a result of the blows, Singh fell backward to the ground and the back of his head hit the pavement. Police from the 102nd Precinct responded to a 911 call of a vehicle collision and they found Singh on the roadway unconscious and unresponsive. EMS responded to the scene and rushed Singh to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition. Singh suffered a brain injury and died the following day.
After striking Singh, Augustin got into his car and drove away, according to the charges. On Oct. 20, the day after the assault, at approximately 1:30 p.m., an NYPD officer saw Augustin sitting in his car on 111th Avenue in Jamaica. The car was a black Ford Mustang that had scratches and a small dent on the rear driver’s side quarter panel. Augustin was unable to produce a valid driver’s license or insurance. A review of DMV records showed his driver’s license was suspended and he was taken into custody.
“This is a case of a fender bender immediately escalating to hateful language and then brutal, deadly violence,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “We will show in court that it was a rage inflamed by hate that led to this senseless tragedy. The defendant will have to answer to some very serious charges. I want to thank my office and the NYPD for thoroughly investigating this crime.”
Augustin was also charged with reckless endangerment and unlicensed driving, according to prosecutors.
Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder ordered Augustin to return to court on Dec. 6. If convicted, Augustin faces up to 25 years in prison.
Singh’s death devastated the Sikh American community of Richmond Hill just days after 19-year-old Mani Sandhu was attacked on board an MTA shuttle bus on his way to a Sikh temple on the morning of Oct. 12.