Sikh-American Man, 66, Was Beaten to Death After Minor Car Crash. His Family Fears Hate Crime

Gilbert Augustin, 30, was arrested in connection with the death of Jasmer Singh, 66

<p>Getty</p> An ambulance responds to the scene of an emergency.


An ambulance responds to the scene of an emergency.

An elderly Sikh-American man was killed in what police say was a “physical altercation” following a motor vehicle collision, stoking fears among his family as well as many in New York's Sikh community that he could have been the victim of a hate crime.

Jasmer Singh, 66, was in an accident in a residential neighborhood with another driver on Thursday afternoon, the New York Police Department tells PEOPLE in a statement. He was taken to the hospital, where he died on Friday.

Singh’s son Subeg Singh shared the news of his father's death on Facebook, writing that it "could be a hate crime. Please pray for his soul."

Subeg told CBS News that his father suffered a broken skull and broken teeth. He is calling for the incident to be investigated as a hate crime, according to CBS News.

"The guy was addressing my father with his costumes, with his turbans," Subeg told the outlet. "There was no reason for someone to go in [with] that intensity. My father was targeted and it is a possible hate crime."

Singh's death came at a time of heightened fear of hate-crimes following the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East, according to information from the Department of Homeland Security, ABC News reported.

The Sikh Coalition, a Sikh civil rights organization, called for a hate crime investigation into Jasmer's death on Wednesday, "given aspects of Mr. Singh’s visible identity as a Sikh man of South Asian descent," according to a letter reviewed by PEOPLE.

"We respectfully request that all potential factors, including bias, be considered throughout the investigation into Mr. Singh’s death," the letter reads, in part.

Japneet Singh, a local community organizer, echoed this thought. "You don't have to be a terrorist for it to be called a hate-crime," he tells PEOPLE.

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Singh's wife, who was in the car with him on their way back from her doctor, is struggling after witnessing the incident.

"She still has that terrible impression [in her] mind," said Subeg.

Police have arrested Gilbert Augustin, 30, and charged him with manslaughter, assault and fleeing the scene of an accident.

Augustin's lawyer, James Concemore Neville, declined to comment on the specifics of the incident when reached by PEOPLE on Tuesday, but he said Singh's death was a “very tragic and unfortunate event."

Augustin has pleaded not guilty to all his charges and is set to appear at the Queens Criminal Court on Thursday, according to court records.

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