Sept. 19, 2022 By Christian Murray
A 27-year-old man was arrested on hate crimes charges Saturday for being part of a group that toppled and smashed a statue of Mahatma Gandhi last month that was located in front of a Hindu temple in South Richmond Hill.
Sukhpal Singh, of Douglaston Queens, was arrested and charged with one count of criminal mischief in the second degree as a hate crime, criminal mischief in the second degree, and aggravated harassment in the first degree, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
Police say that the statue, which was located outside Tulsi Mandi Hindu Temple at 103-26 111th St., was vandalized during the early hours of Aug. 16, with a temple priest discovering it that morning broken into multiple pieces along with the words “Kutta Dog” spray painted on it.
A Kutta dog is a large canine that originated in the Indian subcontinent and is often used as a guard dog.
The police were able to obtain video surveillance of the incident, which depicted five individuals pushing over the statue, and hitting it several times with a sledgehammer and spray painting it. The suspects are then seen running toward Liberty Avenue and then some entering a Mercedes Benz and some getting into a black Toyota Camry.
Police said that the Mercedes Benz observed on video surveillance is registered to Singh.
“As alleged, the defendant, along with several unapprehended others, committed a disgraceful act of violence against a Mahatma Gandhi statue that has become a universal symbol of peace, unity and inclusivity,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz in a statement.
“Hate and bias-motivated attacks have no place in our communities and my office will hold such perpetrators accountable. The defendant has been apprehended and is charged appropriately.”
Singh has been ordered to return to court on Oct. 17. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.