Arrest in killing of Ecuadorean immigrant

February 25, 2009 9:48:02 PM PST
Police said Wednesday they arrested one of the attackers who yelled slurs as they beat an Ecuadorean immigrant to death on a city street, and investigators were looking for a second man. Hakim Scott, 25, was arrested in the Dec. 7 attack on real estate broker Jose Sucuzhanay, which ignited outrage from New York to Ecuador. Police and prosecutors said he was beaten with a bat and kicked by men shouting anti-Hispanic and anti-gay slurs as he walked arm-in-arm with his brother to keep warm.

Scott was expected to be charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime on Thursday, authorities said. Messages left at two possible telephone numbers for his Bronx home weren't immediately returned Wednesday night. Authorities didn't have attorney information for him.

Police were looking for a second man they identified as Keith Phoenix, 28, also of the Bronx. No working telephone number could be found for him.

"Anybody who commits a hate crime, we will not rest until we find them," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference.

Sucuzhanay (pronounced Soo-KOO'-cha-nai), 31, and his brother Romel were walking along a street in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood after attending a church party and stopping at a bar. Phoenix and Scott were sitting in a sport-utility vehicle at a red light when they came upon the brothers, police said Wednesday.

After "exchanging words" with the brothers, Scott got out of the SUV, hit Jose Sucuzhanay with a beer bottle and then chased Romel Sucuzhanay with it, separating the brothers, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Phoenix then got out of the SUV, got an aluminum baseball bat from the vehicle and "savagely beat Jose about his shoulders, ribs and back until he fell to the pavement," Kelly said.

Then Phoenix struck the victim "several more times ... with crushing blows to his head," the police commissioner said.

Romel Sucuzhanay was able to run and call police.

The attack left Jose Sucuzhanay in a coma. He died five days later as his mother was en route from their native Ecuador to see him. He was buried in Ecuador.

Investigators used information from witnesses about the SUV's license plate to trace the vehicle to Phoenix's girlfriend, who wasn't involved in the attack, Kelly said.

They linked Phoenix to the SUV using information from an Oct. 20, 2008, accident report; he was driving it at the time, police said.

Investigators have surveillance video from the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge showing Phoenix and Scott going through a toll 19 minutes after the attack, Kelly said.

Police took Scott into custody for questioning Tuesday near his home, Kelly said.

Phoenix is on parole for an armed robbery conviction, Kelly said. There is a $22,000 reward for his arrest and conviction.

After the attack, hundreds of people gathered for a demonstration in Brooklyn condemning it, and officials in Ecuador monitored the investigation and discussed urging the U.S. Congress to back a campaign of anti-bias education.

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


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