Alleged assault of Sikh teen at Long Island mall being investigated as hate crime

HUNTINGTON STATION, Long Island (WABC) -- The Suffolk County Police Department is investigating an alleged assault of a local Sikh teenager as a hate crime.

Chaz Bedi, 13, of Syosset, said he and his friend were walking through Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station last Saturday when they passed a large group of teenagers.

Bedi told Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne one of them yelled, "Hey, Muhammad, come over here."

They were both wearing dastars, also known as turbans, as part of their Sikh religious garb.

Bedi said he and his friend walked up to the group, exchanged words, but decided to walk away.

"Their body language - it's a little hostile, they look older than us," Bedi recounted.

Then Bedi said the teens followed them.

"One of them says, 'I'm going to knock that ball off your head,'" Bedi said.

He said one of the teens was recording on his cellphone when he was attacked.



"I see one of them walking up behind me and then he jumps in front of me and then he just hits me in the face," Bedi said.

He said the teenager punched him with a closed fist on the left side of his face.

Bedi said he and his friend hid in a clothing store for about 30 minutes.

When they walked back into the mall, he said they saw the group of teens and ran into Macy's.

Bedi said a worker in Macy's saw the kids hiding and asked them if they needed help. They explained the situation and, according to Bedi, the worker called mall security, who located the teens and kicked them out.

Satbir Singh said when his son notified him of the incident two hours later, he called police and brought Bedi back to the mall.

Singh said mall security located the group of teens on video surveillance. They apparently snuck back onto the property. Police detained them for questioning.

As the teens were talking to police, Singh said the mall security guard who removed the teens from the property told him that the kids said that Bedi and his friend said they were going to blow up the mall.

"Are you kidding me?" Singh said. "You're going to stereotype them and say like now we're terrorists!"

"This is so disturbing that young kids can say something like that to protect themselves," he added.

The teens were later released to their parents.

Those with the Suffolk County Police Hate Crimes Unit said detectives are investigating the circumstances surrounding a dispute between two groups of juveniles at the mall on May 29. The incident is being investigated as Aggravated Harassment as a Hate Crime.

Singh and Bedi met with detectives in the Hate Crimes Unit on Wednesday.

Afaf Nasher, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations - New York, said in a statement, "We are relieved that this child was not seriously injured and welcome the Suffolk County Police investigation of this deplorable act of violence as a hate crime. We applaud the young boy's and his family's courage to speak out about this hate incident. Too often, our Sikh brothers and sisters are targeted in hate crimes and other forms of discrimination."

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