Sikh gas station owner in New Jersey becomes victim of hate crime

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NEW YORK – A Sikh gas station owner in New Jersey fell victim to a hate crime on Feb. 20 when he was called “a terrorist, a Muslim, and that he should go back to his own country”, by a 20-year-old man.

According to a Daily Record report, police responded to the Exxon gas station in Parsippany off Route 46 at 7:28 p.m. on Feb. 20 where a Sikh man reported that he had been verbally harassed by at least one occupant of a parked 2014 Toyota Corolla, later identified as Steven Laverty of Morris Plains, New Jersey.

When the victim, whose name has not been released, attempted to use his phone to take photos of the vehicle’s license plate, Laverty exited the vehicle and tried to punch him and take the phone, which the victim was able to avoid, according to police.

Laverty then got back in the car and left, reported Daily Record.

About three hours later, a police dispatcher took a call about a suspicious vehicle at the 7-Eleven on North Beverwyck Road and was able to connect that vehicle to the incident at Exxon gas station, reported earlier.

Officers then stopped the Toyota as it attempted to leave the 7-Eleven parking lot and after a brief investigation, arrested Laverty and Antony Wyzga, 23, of Lake Hiawatha, charging them with possession of drugs.

According to Daily Record, Laverty was charged with fourth degree bias intimidation, harassment for striking or offensive touching, harassment for communication in a manner to cause alarm, possession of Xanax and Vyvanse (also known as Lisdexamfetamine), being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance and failure to turn over CDS to police, while Wyzga was charged with possession of Vyvanse and under 50 grams of marijuana, being under the influence of CDS without a prescription and failure to turn over CDS to police.

During the hearings, Morris County Superior Court Judge Stuart A. Minkowitz noted that Laverty had a “long history of charges related to substance abuse and ruled that he should be detained because he was a danger to himself” as he was on “conditional release for a June 2017 crime and had been arrested three times since then on drug-related disorderly persons charges” while he had completed a rehabilitation program just two weeks before the Feb. 20 incident.

Minkowitz also ordered Wyzga detained until trial after it came to his attention that he had recently skipped four court-ordered appearances and was on conditional release from an August marijuana arrest.

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