His young daughter cowered in the back seat as a Hindu priest was attacked by a Mahwah man during a road-rage incident in the parking lot of a Route 17 shopping center in Ramsey, according to a police complaint.
Members of the Hindu community are now demanding justice in the alleged attack.
Ramsey police charged Nicholas Dow, 30, who lives next door to the Hindu Samaj Temple of Mahwah on West Ramapo Avenue, with simple assault and burglary following the April 3 incident at the Interstate Shopping Center.
They then referred the case to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to be considered as a possible bias incident, Ramsey Police Chief Bryan Gurney said.
Devendra Shukla, who lives and works at the temple, told police that he was driving his car through the shopping center lot with his 6-year-old daughter in the back seat when Dow ran up, screaming and yelling, and punched him in the face.
Dow then got back into his car and drove off -- but not before Shukla got out and snapped a cellphone shot of his black Nissan sedan, Gurney said
Shukla, 43, "had visible signs of injury to his mouth and lip" and was taken to the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood for treatment, the chief said.
Ramsey police tracked down, arrested and charged the 5-foot-7-inch, 220-pound Dow, who claimed that the priest had cut off his car moments earlier -- but that he hadn’t assaulted him.
Police sent Dow to the Bergen County Jail.
Hours later, a judge ordered his release under New Jersey’s bail reform law of 2017, records show.
Shukla later amended his statement, saying that Dow called him a “dirty Indian.”
He also joined members of the Hindu community who want Dow punished to fullest extent of the law -- including no opportunity to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors.
As of Thursday morning, a change.org petition seeking “a criminal trial with maximum punishment” had gathered nearly 3,000 signatures.
Shukla’s supporters pointed to images of Confederate flags that Dow has since removed from his Facebook page. The caption under one of the photos read: “Doesn’t stand for hate it’s about pride.”
“Ten years we're living here and we're not bothering anyone and this happened,” Shukla told WNYC . “I don't understand why they do this.”
Members of the Hindu community reached out to state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal as well as Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo's office, demanding justice.
The prosecutor's office, as a policy, doesn't comment on possible or pending investigations.
Grewal, a former federal and Bergen County prosecutor who lives in Glen Rock, issued a statement:
“Earlier this month, my office released bias incident investigation standards that reaffirm our commitment to these important cases. I have every confidence that the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office will conduct a thorough investigation.”
Hindu Samaj Temple of Mahwah
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