April 18, 2022 By Christian Murray
A Brooklyn teenager who was arrested on hate crime charges Thursday for allegedly punching a 70-year-old Sikh man in Richmond Hill was charged Saturday for two other bias attacks against Sikh men.
Vernon Douglas, 19, has been charged with hate crime charges for allegedly attacking and robbing three Sikh men in separate incidents near the intersection of 95th Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard between April 3 and April 12.
“This defendant is accused of targeting three men, all members of the Sikh community who wore turbans at the time of the attacks,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz in a statement. “We will not tolerate beatings motivated by hate in the borough of Queens – the most diverse county in the world.”
Douglas, of Watkins Street in Brooklyn, has been charged with robbery in the first and second degree as a hate crime, several counts of assault as a hate crime, as well as assault of an elderly person—among other crimes. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
According to the criminal complaint, Douglas’ first bias attack took place at around 6:45 a.m. on Sunday April 3, when he targeted Nirmal Singh, 70, while the victim was walking near the intersection of 95th Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard.
Singh, who was wearing a turban, was punched several times in the face and head without a word being uttered. The victim, who was on his way to the Sikh Cultural Society Temple, suffered a broken nose and had bruising to his right eye due to the assault.
The second incident took place at the same location on April 12 at around 7 a.m., when Douglas—who was shirtless and carrying a stick at the time—allegedly approached a 45-year-old man wearing a turban.
Douglas allegedly hit the man several times with the stick, striking him in the head and face—and then punched him several times. When the man fell to the ground, he allegedly picked up the victim’s wallet and took $300 in cash. The victim was taken to hospital and required stitches to his forehead.
Minutes later, at the same location, Douglas, still shirtless, approached a 58-year-old Sikh man and hit him in the head and face with the stick, causing the victim’s turban to fall from his head. The defendant then picked up the religious garment and then pulled on the victim’s beard.
Douglas was joined by an accomplice in the attack of the 58-year-old. Hezekiah Coleman, 20, allegedly punching the victim multiple times, as well as threatened to shoot him.
Coleman, a resident of 118th Street in Richmond Hill, has been charged with robbery in the first and second degree, and assault in the second degree. He too faces up to 25 years in prison. He has not been charged with a hate crime.
Sikh leaders were outraged by the attacks.
“This is disgusting behavior, and it’s clear the Sikh community is being deliberately targeted,” said Japneet Singh, a community leader, shortly after the attacks.
Singh told the Queens Post last week that many Sikh residents have built a home in Richmond Hill– known by many as Little Punjab—and are now worried about their safety.
“For [the attacks] to happen in our home—that we call Little Punjab — a lot of people are very saddened and just scared,” he said.
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