A Manhattan man was arrested on Thursday, Oct. 19, and charged with hate crime assault for the Oct. 15 bias attack on a 19-year-old member of the Sikh faith on board an MTA shuttle bus in South Richmond Hill.
Christopher Philippeaux, 26, of Park Avenue in East Harlem, was spotted on 2nd Avenue and East 114th Street and taken into custody on Thursday afternoon, 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.
An NYPD spokeswoman could not provide a motive for the bias attack that occurred on board an MTA shuttle bus in the vicinity of Liberty Avenue and 118th Street just after 9 a.m. on Oct. 15.
Philippeaux allegedly approached 19-year-old Mani Sandhu who was on his way to a Sikh temple and said, “We don’t wear that in this country and take that mask off.” He allegedly punched Sandhu in the back of the head, in his face and back multiple times, causing a minor laceration and pain, police said.
During the assault, Philippeaux tried to remove the turban from Sanhu’s head, according to the NYPD. Philippeaux proceeded to run off the bus on Liberty Avenue and fled the location in an unknown direction, police said.
The victim refused medical attention at the crime scene and there were no other injuries reported as a result of the assault, according to the NYPD.
“Our thoughts are with the victim of this horrific incident and the safety of our riders remains our top priority,” MTA Acting Chief Customer Officer Shanifah Rieara said on Oct. 16 after the NYPD’s Hate Crime Unit joined the investigation. “We are working closely with our partners at the NYPD to ensure this suspect is arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We’ve said it before, if you commit a crime in the transit system, you will be caught and face justice.”
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo condemned the alleged hate crime, as did U.S. Rep. Grace Meng. They were joined by Assemblymembers David Weprin and Khaleel Anderson on Thursday afternoon as Philippeaux was taken into custody.
“This indefensible attack on an innocent man based on his religious affiliation goes against everything we stand for in New York,” Weprin said. “Our diverse population deserves to feel safe, no matter what religious or cultural garb they are wearing. Violence and hatred have no place in our state.”
Anderson declared that hate has no place in Queens.
“The individual who committed this cowardly act had chosen ignorance, bigotry, fear, and anxiety, but we will continue to respond with appreciation, compassion, unity and solidarity,” Anderson said. “I stand together with Assemblyman Weprin, Mani Sandhu and the entire Sikh community to denounce hate and promote justice.”
Philippeaux is awaiting his arraignment in Queens Criminal Court.