Dead immigrant's family urges action

December 15, 2008 8:49:53 AM PST
The brother of an Ecuadorean immigrant beaten to death in an apparent hate crime asked his neighbors Sunday for help finding the killers, saying he and his family were heartbroken. Diego Sucuzhanay called the brutal attack "a wake-up call" to the public.

"It shows how far we must still come to address the devastating problem of hate crimes in our communities. Only by exposing these crimes and working together will we be able to make a difference," Sucuzhanay said at a news conference outside the Queens hospital where his brother, Jose, died late Friday.

He said a $27,000 reward was being offered for information that could solve the crime.

Jose Sucuzhanay, a 31-year-old real estate broker, was accosted on a Brooklyn street by men who yelled anti-Hispanic and anti-gay slurs at him and his brother, Rommel, early Dec. 7, according to police. The two were walking arm in arm after attending a church party and then stopping at a bar.

Rommel Sucuzhanay was able to get away and call police, but Jose Sucuzhanay was attacked by three men who smashed a beer bottle over his head, hit him in the head with an aluminum baseball bat and kicked him, police said.

The New York Police Department's hate crime task force is seeking suspects. A police spokesman said Sunday he had no updates.

In remarks at Brooklyn's Christian Cultural Center and a Baptist church on Staten Island, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the beating "a pointless and gutless crime."

He said that race relations in the city were generally better than in decades, but that "this atmosphere is occasionally shattered by dangerous acts of bigotry that undermine our fight to live in peace and security."

With about 50 friends and supporters standing in an arc behind him, Diego Sucuzhanay thanked city and Ecuadorean officials for their support.

Diego Sucuzhanay noted that their mother arrived from Ecuador on Saturday, too late to see Jose alive one last time. He said his brother's body would be returned to Ecuador for burial.

In Ecuador's capital, Quito, the country's deputy secretary of migration policy said the government was keeping an eye on the police investigation.

In a telephone interview, Arturo Cabrera also said Ecuador was considering sending a special delegation to urge the U.S. Congress to support "a complete education campaign" aimed at changing what he called an "advanced level of ignorance that brings these groups to commit such brutalities."

The attack on Sucuzhanay came about a month after another Ecuadorean immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, was stabbed to death in Patchogue, on suburban Long Island. Prosecutors said seven teenagers charged in that assault had set out to find a Hispanic person to attack.