Hit and run investigated as hate crime

March 31, 2008 6:22:25 PM PDT
A day laborer who was the victim of a hit and run that police are investigating as a possible hate crime was released from a hospital Monday.The victim, a 42-year-old Hispanic man, was struck by a vehicle Sunday morning as he and at least four other laborers waited for work near a gas station at a Long Island Expressway service road, Suffolk County police said.

The man, whose name police didn't release because of the ongoing investigation, suffered a skull fracture after the car jumped the sidewalk and struck him, police Hate Crimes Unit Detective Sgt. Robert Reecks said. The driver left the scene, which is near the victim's home, police said.

The incident was being investigated as a possible hate crime because of long-simmering and sometimes violent tensions between day laborers, many of whom are immigrants, and some residents, Reecks said.

In September 2000, two Mexican men were beaten by two men who lured them to an abandoned factory with the promise of work.

Over the Fourth of July weekend in 2003, a Mexican family was forced to flee its home after a group of teenagers shot fireworks through an open window, igniting a blaze that destroyed the house.

In 2005, two men were arrested on charges of yelling racial epithets at a Hispanic day laborer. One of the men was accused of throwing a beer bottle at the worker, striking him in the back.

Police said that since Sunday's incident they have been receiving telephone calls from people stating the victim deserved to be hit.

"At this point we don't know," Reecks said of the motivation behind Sunday's incident. "What we know is we have a driver leaving the scene of a motor crash with injuries," a misdemeanor.

Investigators are searching for a silver-gray mid-size car with extensive windshield damage.