The man accused of killing a Sikh man in New York City earlier this month after a fender bender is facing hate crime charges.
Gilbert Augustin, 30, was charged Tuesday in a 20-count indictment with manslaughter of the first-degree as a hate crime and assault in the second-degree as a hate crime.
Jasmer Singh, 66, was brutally beaten on Oct. 19 in Queens after Augustin’s and Singh’s cars collided. Prosecutors say Augustin got out of his car to confront Singh, who was still in his vehicle, and started arguing with him, repeatedly calling Singh “turban man.” Singh was wearing a turban as part of his religion.
The two continued to argue, with Augustin telling Singh that he would not let him go home and repeatedly saying “No police, no police,” according to a statement from Queens County District Attorney Melinda Katz on Tuesday. According to witness testimony and video surveillance, Augustin reached into Singh’s car and took his phone. Singh got out of his car and retrieved his phone.
Augustin punched Singh three times in the head and face as he was walking back to his car, the statement said, and one of the blows knocked his turban off. Singh fell to the ground, hit his head on the pavement and suffered a brain injury. He was taken to a hospital and died the next day.
According to NBC News, Augustin got back in his car after striking Singh and drove off. He was arrested the next day.
“This is a case of a fender bender immediately escalating to hateful language and then brutal, deadly violence,” Katz said in the statement on Tuesday, describing the tragedy as one motivated by “a rage inflamed by hate.”
Augustin had initially faced only manslaughter and assault charges, The New York Times reported. Singh’s family had pushed for Augustin to face hate crime charges for the attack, according to NBC News.
If convicted, Augustin could face up to 25 years in prison. He is expected to return to court on Dec. 6.
New York, as well as the entire country, has seen increased reports of hate and discrimination, particularly against Jews, Palestinians and Muslims, following the launch of the Israel-Hamas war earlier this month. According to The Washington Post, hate crimes, including those against Jewish people and Muslims, and even those perceived to be Arab or Muslim, had been on the rise in the United States even before the violence began in Israel on Oct. 7. Singh’s religion, Sikhism, has its origins in 15th century India.
New York City saw a surge in assaults on Sikhs after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, along with a rise in discrimination against members of the Sikh religion.
On Oct. 12, New York State Attorney General Letitia James warned against the rise in attacks against Israelis, Palestinians, Jews and Muslims.
“Let me be clear: New York has zero tolerance for hate of any kind, not now and not ever. As we mourn the loss of innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives, there is no excuse or tolerance for antisemitism, Islamophobia, or bigotry and discrimination of any kind,” James said in a statement.
“No New Yorker should fear walking in our streets because of what they wear, what they believe, or where and how they practice their faith. I encourage anyone who experiences a hate crime or bias incident to report it to my office.”