Oct. 16, 2023 By Bill Parry
The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating an assault that occurred Sunday on board an MTA shuttle bus in South Richmond Hill after a young rider was allegedly attacked for wearing a turban and a face mask, according to authorities.
The 106th Precinct reported that the bias crime went down on the shuttle in the vicinity of Liberty Avenue and 118th Street just after 9 a.m on Oct. 15, when a stranger approached the 19-year-old victim and allegedly said, “We don’t wear that in this country and take that mask off.”
The assailant allegedly punched the rider in the back of the head, in his face and back multiple times, causing a minor laceration and pain, police said. During the assault, the perpetrator tried to remove the turban from the young man’s head, according to the NYPD.
The stranger ran 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.
“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. “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 Senator Joseph Addabbo condemned the alleged hate crime.
“This reprehensible attack targeting an innocent individual based on their religious and cultural identity is an appalling display of bigotry and will not be tolerated,” Addabbo said. “We must stand united against such acts of violence and hatred, and work towards creating a society that respects and embraces diversity. I offer any assistance my office can be in apprehending the criminals of this unacceptable incident.”
The victim is a member of the Sikh faith and may have been wrongfully targeted, investigators determined, adding the incident does not appear to be connected to the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.
“Over the past few days, we have seen a devastating up-tick in discrimination and violence against religious minorities that have now hit our home here in Queens,” U.S. Rep. Grace Meng said. “I was horrified to learn that one of our young residents, who was going about their day on a MTA bus, was a victim of a verbal and physical assault that left him bleeding. This is unacceptable. We will not stand for such vile hate and bigotry here in Queens, nor anywhere in our country. I wish the victim a speedy recovery and hope that the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit is quickly able to find the alleged perpetrator.”
The NYPD released several surveillance photos of the suspect from inside the shuttle bus on Oct. 16 and described him as having a dark complexion with a slim build and goatee. He is believed to be around 25 to 30 years of age.
He was last seen wearing a yellow bubble jacket, ripped and faded blue jeans and white sneakers.
The suspect remains at large and the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit continues to investigate. Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.
The 106th Precinct has reported three hate crimes so far in 2023, one fewer than the four reported at the same point last year, a decline of 25%, according to the most recent CompStat report. The 106th Precinct reported 278 assaults so far this year, the same number of incidents that were reported during the same time period in 2022, according to CompStat.