Christopher Philippeaux, 26, of Park Avenue in East Harlem, is accused of taunting, punching and trying to knock off the traditional Sikh turban from the head of 19-year-old 19-year-old Mani Sandhu, who was on his way to a Sikh temple, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced on Oct. 21.
Philippeaux was arraigned Oct. 20 in Queens Criminal Court and charged with assault in the third degree as a hate crime and aggravated harassment in the second degree.
According to the charges, at around 9 a.m. on Oct. 15, Philippeaux and Sandhu were passengers on an MTA A train shuttle bus in the vicinity of Liberty Avenue and 118th Street. The teenager was wearing a medical-type mask and a turban — a head covering he wore as part of his religious practice as a Sikh. Philippeaux — wearing blue jeans, a yellow jacket and gray shoes — approached Sandhu and started screaming at him to remove his mask. He pushed the victim and punched him in the face. Philippeaux punched the teenager in the back of the head, tried to knock off his turban and told him, “We don’t wear that in this country.”
Philippeaux then punched the victim multiple times in the back of his head and body, according to the charges. He exited the shuttle bus, but re-entered to punch Sandhu several more times in his head and body. He then fled the bus running down Liberty Avenue.
The victim went to an area hospital where he received medical treatment for the injuries sustained during the assault, including facial swelling, bruises, substantial pain and bleeding from his nose. The attack left Sandhu shaken, alarmed and annoyed, according to the criminal complaint.
Police spotted Philippeaux on 2nd Avenue and East 114th Street just blocks from his home and he was taken into custody on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. Oct. 19, according to authorities. Members of the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Unit who were investigating the case brought Philippeaux back to the 106th Precinct, where he was booked at around 7:30 p.m., police said.
“We will hold accountable those that would attack others based on their religion,” Katz said. “Freedom of religion and expression are foundational principles of our democracy. That is most true here in Queens, the ‘World’s Borough,’ the most diverse county in the United States. Unprovoked attacks, especially ones motivated by hate, will not be tolerated.”
Queens Criminal Court Maria Gonzalez ordered him to return to court on Oct. 23.