The fatal beating of a Bengali man in his Kingsbridge building last week has shaken members of the north Bronx Bengali community, who now believe he was targeted because of his ethnicity.
Bimal Chanda, a 59-year-old former taxi driver, was robbed and severely beaten on the second-floor landing of his apartment building on 190th Street just off of Fordham Road on the morning of October 29. He died in the hospital four days later from severe head trauma, leaving behind a wife and a 16-year-old daughter.
Friends were shocked at the brutal assault of Chanda, who emigrated to Kingsbridge from Calcutta, India nearly 30 years ago.
“He was an innocent guy who was killed intentionally,” said Mohammed Ali, a member of Community Board 7, who had been friends with Chanda for more than 10 years. “The Bengali community is very afraid of this biased crime. It’s a hate crime.”
Ali said Chanda, an acute diabetic, was moving from his apartment on the third floor to a condominium in Parkchester, because of concerns about crime in the area. He and his wife were picking up the last of their possessions in the apartment when Chanda left to purchase tape from a nearby 99-cent store.
That’s when two men grabbed him from behind on the staircase and struck him on the head with a metal object. The commotion could be heard throughout the apartment building, which has no security cameras or working locks on the front entrance.
“I heard a big noise,” said first-floor resident Nidia Rodriguez, whose 16-year-old son attended elementary school with Chanda’s daughter. “Then I heard his wife screaming.”
Another resident on the first floor, Sara Inoa, rode in the ambulance with an unconscious Chanda and his wife Chaya, both of whom she had known for 17 years.
“She came banging on my door, asking for help,” said Inoa. “He was lying on the floor with his head bleeding. For me, he was dead right there.”
Ali said he doesn’t believe the incident was just a robbery, since Chanda still had his cell phone and more than $80 in his pocket when he was taken to the hospital.
“Robbers, they target us,” said Ali, referring to what he said has been a series of thefts and attacks on Bengalis in the neighborhood in the last couple of months. Ali helped organize a rally Thursday after Chanda’s funeral in Parkchester, where Chanda’s wife and daughter now live.
Police have released a video of the two suspects, described as male and black, between the ages of 20 and 25, and approximately six-feet tall apiece. Notices of the attack have also gone up in the apartment building, including one written by residents demanding the landlord install cameras and fix the broken locks on the front door.
Chanda’s death is one of three homicides that occurred within one week in the 52nd precinct, which encompasses Kingsbridge, Bedford Park and Norwood.
A 35-year-old man was stabbed to death in the lobby of an apartment building on Grand Avenue near Fordham Road on Tuesday morning. Police have yet to identify the victim, or any suspects in the case.
On Saturday morning at around 4 a.m., a 21-year-old man was shot in front of an apartment building on 2843 Bainbridge Avenue, near 198th Street, a few blocks from where he lived on the Grand Concourse. Detectives on the scene said that the man had been in an argument with several other men when the shots were fired. The victim, Edwin Valdez, who was shot in the chest, was still able to walk to 198th Street where he was able to receive help. He later died at Saint Barnabas Hospital.
Bainbridge Avenue was cordoned off by police between 198th Street and 199th Street all morning, including a portion right in front of the Academy of Mount St. Ursula High School. Police have not identified any suspects.
The early morning killing convinced some longtime residents in the Bedford Park neighborhood that it was time to leave.
“I’m moving upstate,” said Linda Matos, a mother of four, who heard the gunshots that morning from her apartment two buildings down.
“The Bronx is disgusting. You’re so used to it. For my children, I say to God every day, please protect them.
Police have released video footage of the suspects sought in Chanda’s killing.