New York, October 21: A 26-year-old man has been arrested and charged with hate-crime assault following an attack on a Sikh teen onboard a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus in New York City last week, police said. Christopher Philippeaux from East Harlem, who was arrested late on Thursday night, had punched 19-year-old Mani Sandhu multiple times and attempted to remove his turban.
Both men were riding on a shuttle bus
Police said on Friday that both men were riding on a shuttle bus on October 15 morning near 118th Street and Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill when the assault took place. Sandhu told CBS News that he was on his way to a Sikh temple in Queens and was about to get off near Liberty Avenue and 118th Street when a stranger walked up and assaulted him.
'We don't wear this in our America'
"Take off your mask. He said it two times. And then he said... 'We don't wear this in our America,'" Sandhu said. The verbal assault was followed by multiple punches on Sandhu's head and neck. Philippeaux, as seen in surveillance photos, then got off the bus and boarded it again in an attempt to rip off Sandhu's turban.
'He was punching on the back side of the neck to take off this'
"He was punching on the back side of the neck to take off this, like that, but that didn't happen, because I was in my self-defence. And he tried to punch on my back, neck, and my nose too," Sandhu told CBS News.
He moved to the US 10 months ago from India
Sandhu said he moved to the US 10 months ago from India thinking he would never be attacked here but "the incident happened with me makes me disappointed, and makes me like I'm not safe in this area".
The incident is being investigated by the NYPD
The incident is being investigated by the NYPD (New York Police Department) Hate Crimes Unit. Slamming the incident, the US-based Sikh Coalition said on X that it is "deeply disturbed by an apparent hate-motivated attack on a Sikh teen".
This young Sikh's turban was insulted and targeted during the attack
“Given that this young Sikh's turban was insulted and targeted during the attack, we are heartened that this incident is being investigated as a hate crime," Sikh Coalition Staff Attorney, Amreen Partap Singh Bhasin, said in a statement.
The attack had left him shaken and angry
In an earlier statement released by the Sikh Coalition, Sandhu said that the attack had left him shaken and angry and that " no one should be assaulted or harassed because of how they look, and everyone should be able to go about their business in public in peace".