New York, Jan 16, 2008
Baljeet Singh, a 63-year-old Sikh man suffered serious injuries on Monday evening during an unprovoked attack by David C. Wood, a next-door neighbour to the Gurdwara Sahib (Sikh place of worship) at 95th Avenue and 222nd Street in Jamaica, New York. Singh suffered a broken nose and a fractured jaw, which will both require surgery. The suspect, Wood, aged 36, attacked Singh after the latter had parked his car on the opposite side of the street from where the Gurdwara and the defendant’s house are located.
At approximately 5:45 p.m. on Monday, Baljeet Singh had parked his car down the street and on the opposite side from the Gurdwara and Wood’s residence when the latter began screaming incomprehensibly. As the victim started to move towards the Gurdwara, taking a path that allowed the most distance from his would-be attacker, the defendant accosted Singh. The victim, told UNITED SIKHS that Wood swore at him and called him an Arab, before punching him, causing him to bleed profusely and fall to the sidewalk. During the attack, Singh’s turban was knocked off and his spectacles broke. This series of events transpired quickly and with no provocation from the victim, as the two had never spoken at any point. According to the victim’s son, Harpreet Singh, two people assumed to be the perpetrator’s parents appeared immediately after the attack and approached his father as he fell and supposedly asked if he was alright. The victim entered the Gurdwara and called 911, deciding not to disturb anyone else with the situation due to the fact that prayers were in progress.
The victim’s wife, Jasbir Kaur, arrived as an ambulance was taking her husband away to Long Island Jewish Hospital, where he received a CAT scan, X-rays, and several tests before being discharged at 3 a.m. When police arrived at the scene, both the assailant and the people thought to be his parents had vacated the house.
“UNITED SIKHS was contacted by Detective Michael Theogene with the Community Affairs Department of the NYPD, urging us to contact the Hate Crimes Task Force. Mr. Wood was arrested last night,” said Jaspreet Singh, UNITED SIKHS staff attorney. “Police have charged Mr. Wood with 4 counts of assault, two of which are classified as hate crimes, and an additional charge of aggravated harassment,” He added.
The congregants of the Gurdwara, which the victim’s family has attended for 12 years, have previously experienced resentment from the defendant’s house due to the proximity of the Gurdwara to his residence. Wood had sometimes turned speakers playing loud music towards the Gurdwara during a prayer service. In the past, Gurdwara officials reminded congregants to park at a distance and also warned parents to keep their children away from Wood’s house. “As you can imagine,” the younger Singh claimed, “this incident has instilled a tremendous fear in all of us.”
Singh is scheduled for surgery to correct his fractured jaw and broken nose. For two weeks, he will require a completely liquid diet, followed by several more weeks of soft foods such as gelatin and mashed potatoes only. Distressed, Ms. Kaur claimed, “The biggest thing we are afraid of is not being able to go back to our Gurdwara. We’ve gone there so long, and now what do we do after all this?” UNITED SIKHS will continue to assist the victim and his family in dealing with the impact of this atrocity by contacting the Crime Victims Fund and following up with the police and the Hate Crimes Task Force.
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