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Teen arrested over attacks on elderly Sikh tourist, two others in NY

Vernon Douglas of Brownsville was charged with multiple counts of robbery, assault

siskhnyf File: Participants take part in the Annual Sikh Day Parade in Manhattan, New York, US | Reuters

A 19-year-old youth has been arrested and faces hate crime charges for his alleged involvement in attacks on three Sikh men in Queens here, including the brutal assault of an elderly Sikh tourist early this month, that was condemned as deeply disturbing" by the Consulate General of India.

Vernon Douglas of Brownsville was arrested on Thursday in Brooklyn and charged with multiple counts of robbery, assault, aggravated harassment and hate crimes, the Queens Chronicle reported.

On April 3, Douglas allegedly approached 70-year-old Nirmal Singh near the corner of Lefferts Boulevard and 95th Avenue and punched him in the face in the unprovoked assault. The attacker fled the scene on foot and the incident was taken over by the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force.

The images shared on social media showed Singh with a bloodied turban, face and clothes.

Singh was a tourist visiting from India and he was able to walk back after the assault to the cultural centre where he had been staying since he arrived in New York City. He suffered a broken nose and bruises to his face.

The Consulate General of India in New York had condemned the assault on the elderly Sikh man terming it as deeply disturbing, and said they were in touch with the police who are investigating this heinous hate crime.

The Sikh Coalition said that Singh chose to return to India after the attack in order to be with his family.

The arrested accused was also involved in the attack on two Sikh men in the same neighbourhood in the city this week, the report said.

Douglas and another suspect, who was arrested earlier, on Tuesday, attacked two Sikh men, removing their religious headwear, robbing them of their money and striking them on the head and body with closed fists and a wooden stick.

The attack happened very close to the area where septuagenarian Singh was punched. While 20-year old Hezekiah Coleman was taken into custody on the same day from an abandoned house near the scene of the incident, Douglas remained at large.

New York State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, the first Punjabi American ever elected to New York State Office, tweeted I am gratified to report that the NYPD has apprehended the second suspect in Tuesday's heinous crime against the Sikh community. This comes on the heels of the other suspect being formally charged this morning with hate crimes, she said.

She had earlier noted that there has been an alarming 200% rise in hate crimes against the Sikh community in recent years. She passed a historic resolution whereby New York State recognises April as Punjabi month. 

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