April 14, 2022 (Queens, NY) -- Today, the Sikh Coalition learned that Vernon Douglas has been arrested in connection with the Sunday, April 3, assault of Mr. Nirmal Singh and the April 12 assault of two more Sikh men. Additionally, Hezekiah Coleman was arrested on April 12 in connection with the attacks that day.
Per the latest information from the NYPD’s Public Information Office, Douglas was charged with one count of assault as a hate crime, one count of assault of a victim older than 65, and one count of aggravated harassment in relation to the assault of Mr. Singh, as well as two counts of robbery as a hate crime, two counts of robbery, two counts of assault as a hate crime, and two counts of aggravated harassment in relation to the April 12 attacks. Coleman was charged with two counts of robbery as a hate crime, one count of robbery, one count of assault as a hate crime, and one count of aggravated harassment in relation to the April 12 attacks.
“The NYPD recognized and investigated these cases as hate crimes, and has stated they will be recorded as anti-Sikh incidents,” said Nikki Singh, Sikh Coalition Senior Manager of Policy and Advocacy. “Swift action in cases like these--action that stems directly from the lived experiences of our community--sends a clear message that no one should be targeted by hate violence.”
As a reminder, Mr. Nirmal Singh, who retained the Sikh Coalition for free legal aid shortly after his assault, decided to return to India last weekend in order to have the support and care of his family. The Sikh Coalition remains in contact with both his family and the NYPD in order to facilitate his participation in the ongoing case, and we will continue to share updates as they emerge.
“My father is very grateful that his attacker has been identified and arrested so that he cannot harm others,” said Manjit Singh, Nirmal Singh’s son. “Our family sees this sad incident as an assault not just on him, but on all who wear turbans and other articles of faith. Successfully investigating and prosecuting this as a hate crime should send a clear message: All of our elders--regardless of religion, race, or any other characteristic--deserve to be able to walk the streets without fear.”
The Sikh Coalition is not currently representing the two men attacked on April 12, and for that reason, we continue not sharing their names or information in order to maintain their privacy. We remain thankful to the Richmond Hill sangat leaders who continue working to support those individuals and did the same for Nirmal Singh. For members of the New York sangat in the immediate area who would like to show their support, we understand there will be a ‘Justice For Sikh Americans’ rally at 6:30 PM this evening, located 101st Ave and Lefferts Blvd.
Finally, the Sikh community and leaders of the sangat in Richmond Hill wish to reiterate our firm belief that no single community is deserving of, or responsible for, hate crimes. We all feel sadness and anger for the men who were attacked. As we react and move forward, however, we must remember that drawing judgements about a whole group because of the actions of a few is always wrong. In these difficult moments, anti-Black racism is directly harmful to our shared efforts to stop the hate violence that endangers us all.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.