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Man Charged With Hate Crime for Hitting Sikh With Truck, Police Said

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 19, 2014 12:15pm
 Sandeep Singh was run over by a truck after the driver used racial slurs, his family said.
Anti-Sikh Hate Crime in Queens
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QUEENS — A Long Island man was arrested Monday for plowing into a Sikh with his pickup truck last month and dragging him several feet after allegedly calling the victim a "terrorist," police said

Joseph Caleca, 55, of Setauket, was charged with attempted murder as a hate crime and assault as a hate crime for the attack on 29-year-old Sandeep Singh that took place in Ozone Park on July 30, police said.

Singh, 29, a father of two young children, was mowed down with the truck around midnight, just outside of his construction company, on 99th Street and 101st Avenue, police said.

According to the victim's family, Singh and his friends had just finished eating dinner and were slowly crossing the street when Caleca approached them in his white truck.

Police said that the truck was forced to stop, leading to a verbal dispute between Caleca and Singh.

Witnesses told investigators that the driver called Singh a "terrorist." Caleca also allegedly told him, “Go back to your country, bin Laden."

According to the DA's office Caleca said “Move your [expletive deleted] ass. You’re [expletive deleted] slow, you [expletive deleted] Osama. Go back to your country.”

District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement that Caleca parked his truck and got out to confront Singh.

He then returned to his car, hit Singh and dragged him several feet before fleeing, the DA's office said.

Singh was rushed to Jamaica Hospital for back and abdominal injuries, including internal bleeding, and several abrasions, police said.

Gurjot Kaur of the Sikh Coalition said Tuesday that Singh was discharged from the hospital last week and is currently undergoing physical therapy. "It's going to take time for him to recover," Kaur said.

The Queens Sikh community held a rally earlier this month urging police and federal authorities to investigate the assault as a hate crime.

Police said Tuesday they were able to find Caleca's car based on surveillance footage from the crime scene, enabling them to identify the truck’s license plates.

In convicted, Caleca faces up to 25 years in prison, Brown said.