In November 2008, Marcelo Lucero of Ecuador was attacked by a group of seven teenagers going “beaner-jumping,” or looking for Latinos to attack. When Lucero fought back with his belt, eighteen year-old Jeffrey Conroy stabbed him to death.
Last week the trial concluded with Conroy being convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime, making him eligible to serve anywhere from 8 to 25 years in prison. He was also found guilty of gang assault and attempted assault on three other Latinos. However he avoided the more serious charge of second-degree murder as a hate crime, which would have given him up to life in prison.
Conroy, who initially confessed to the police only to later plead innocent at the trial, was the only one of the seven convicted. Four have plead guilty to second-degree attempted assault as a hate crime and are cooperating with police, while two others have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. The victim’s family in turn has established a scholarship in Marcelo Lucero’s name at the high school attended by the seven teenagers.
Meanwhile, a trial has commenced for the murder of another Ecuadorian immigrant in New York. In December 2008, Jose Sucuzha˝ay was walking in Brooklyn with his brother when both were attacked and taunted with racial and homophobic slurs. While his brother was not seriously injured, Sucuzha˝ay was knocked unconscious with a broken bottle, and then repeatedly attacked with an aluminum baseball bat. He died soon after being declared brain-dead.
Soon after the news of the two men’s deaths broke, many Latinos in eastern Long Island and Brooklyn came forward saying that they too had been victims of assault or abuse. In Long Island, immigrant advocates decried the Suffolk Police Department for not addressing Latinos’ reports of assault. The federal government has announced plans to investigate the police department’s handling of the reports.
While the brutal deaths are a harsh reminder of the fatal consequences of extreme racism and xenophobia, nonviolent forms of hate, such as slurs or intimidation, are serious as well. And when the stories of Lucero and Sucuzhu˝ay disappear from the headlines, will the government and people’s awareness of hate disappear as well?
After Lucero’s trial concluded, his brother Joselo commented, “The hunting season is over, at least for now.”