Steady Recovery for Ozone Park Hit-And-Run Victim

Steady Recovery for Ozone Park Hit-And-Run Victim

Navindeep Singh (l.) updates the community on his brother Sandeep’s recovery since being struck by a white van on July 30.  Photo by Phil Corso

Navindeep Singh (l.) updates the community on his brother Sandeep’s recovery since being struck by a white van on July 30. Photo by Phil Corso

A brutal 52 stitches to the stomach and severely injured back have not stopped 29-year-old Sandeep Singh, who has been on the mend since the driver of a white truck called him “Osama” before running him over late last month.

Brother Navindeep Singh said his family was shocked to see the beloved father fall victim to such a hateful act in modern day New York City. He stood with city leaders in Richmond Hill last Thursday to denounce Joseph Caleca, 55, the suspect accused of ramming his van into Singh after he allegedly told him to go back to his country.

Navindeep Singh said his brother was slowly recovering and even spending some time back at work at the construction business they work at together.

“It’s taking a little while. It is a slow process,” Navindeep Singh said of his brother Sandeep’s recovery. “He is walking on his own. He’s getting back to work. Psychologically, everything is fine.”

State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) stood with Singh’s brother and members of the greater Sikh community last Thursday in Richmond Hill to draw more attention to the incident and call for the maximum penalties against Caleca.

“We don’t want a public apology,” Weprin said. “We want prosecution.”

Caleca, of Setauket, Long Island, was accused of using racial slurs, including calling Singh “Osama,” before ramming his white Chevrolet pick-up truck into him, dragging his body along the street several feet near 101st Avenue and 99th Street in Ozone Park before fleeing on July 30, police said.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Caleca was charged with attempted murder as a hate crime, assault as a hate crime and leaving the scene of an accident. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, the DA said.

The criminal complaint against Caleca outlined a harsh run-in with Singh as he was walking with three of his friends near the Ozone Park intersection last month.

“Move your [expletive deleted],” he allegedly said to Singh. “You’re [expletive deleted] slow, you [expletive deleted] Osama. Go back to your country.”

The man then parked his truck to verbally confront Singh and his friends before returning to his car and driving head-on into the 29-year-old, Brown said. Singh’s body fell into the vehicle’s undercarriage and was dragged several feet until his body became dislodged from underneath the truck, the DA said.

Singh was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was treated for internal bleeding and received several staples to his mid-section, Brown said.

“I am grateful to be alive and talking to you today,” Singh said in a prepared statement last Thursday. “In fact, my doctors and the police said it’s a miracle that I’m alive.”

Representatives from across the borough put out statements in support of the Sikh community while calling on Brown to ensure justice is served.

“The disturbing pattern of escalating violence and hate against New York’s Sikh community is unacceptable and immediate steps are needed to both protect the community and prevent such attacks from happening in the first place,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights). “New York City should send a strong message that this kind of bigotry and violence will not be tolerated.”


By Phil Corso


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