A man has been arrested and charged in connection to the early morning vandalism of a Mahatma Gandhi statue in Queens, New York City, last month.
Sukhpal Singh, 27, was apprehended on Saturday for the Aug. 16 incident at the Shri Tulsi Mandir, a Hindu temple located at 103-24 111th St. in South Richmond Hill.
Surveillance footage shows five individuals pushing over the Gandhi statue before taking turns whacking it with a sledgehammer. They then fled in two cars. A priest discovered the destruction later that morning. Aftermath photos show the statue decapitated with all four limbs severed.The words “Kutta Dog” was also graffitied on the statue’s back. The term appears to refer to an aggressive breed of canine that is believed to have originated in Pakistan.
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The incident is being investigated as a pattern along with an earlier attack against the same statue on Aug. 3. At the time, the figure was toppled over, with one arm cracked and one hand smashed into pieces.
Singh was identified through one of the getaway vehicles, a Mercedes Benz C-class, which was registered to his name. The rest of his alleged accomplices remain at large.
The Douglaston resident has been charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime, criminal mischief in the second degree and aggravated harassment in the first degree. He faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz condemned the incident and vowed to hold perpetrators accountable.
“As alleged, the defendant, along with several unapprehended others, committed a disgraceful act of violence against a Mahatma Gandhi statue that has become a universal symbol of peace, unity and inclusivity,” Katz said in a statement. “Hate and bias-motivated attacks have no place in our communities and my Office will hold such perpetrators accountable. The defendant has been apprehended and is charged appropriately.”
Singh, however, was released without bail after his arraignment on Sunday. He was ordered to return to court on Oct. 17.