Teenager arrested in Staten Island bias attack

August 2, 2010 8:27:52 PM PDT
Police have arrested a teenager and charged him in the weekend bias attack in Staten Island. It's the 11th hate crime in Staten Island this year, according to police.

Police arrested the unidentified 15-year-old boy and have charged him with second degree robbery as a hate crime, third degree assault as a hate crime, and aggravated harassment as a hate crime.

Police said the latest victim, a Mexican teenager was robbed and beaten over the weekend with his attackers using racist slurs. It happened at Castleton Avenue and Simonson Place on the heels of increased patrols in the area.

The victim of this bias attack is a bright, articulate young man, and he carries a strong message.

"At the moment, I thought I was going to die. I really thought I was going to die," Christian Vasquez said.

Fearing the worst, Vasquez, looking at hate in the faces of four young men, says he was attacked because he is Mexican.

"I was kicked on. They started screaming at me, telling me racist things, racist slurs, calling me an f-in Mexican, wetback," he explained.

Police say the suspects punched him in the face and took all he had: $10.

"I've known him since he was 14 years old he is a gracious, good, kind-hearted human being, and he has been a member of a local group, working against violence in the community for more than 3 years," The Reverend Terry Troia said.

Rev. Troia works closely with the Mexican population and has been horrified by the recent spike in hate crimes.

With his face still bruised and swollen, Vasquez is speaking out and joining a chorus of others denouncing this and other alleged attacks on Mexican men, which brings with it a stepped up police presence on the streets of Port Richmond.

Vasquez had stopped at this deli on the way home from work Saturday, picking up a carton of milk for a friend.

After dropping it off, he started to make his way home when suddenly he was jumped by the four young men.

"They targeted me. I was pretty much an easy target at the time. I wasn't paying attention at the time. I was confident that there were police around there. That they were doing their job," Vasquez said.

Just last week there were meetings, vigils and prayer services to tackle the problem.

Police also sent a large force to the neighborhood including patrols on foot, horseback and cars to underscore that open season on Mexicans is over.

"We will bridge this gap. We will reach the perpetrators and beyond the justice the police seek and we all seek to find a way to mend this community," Troia said.

Vasquez had also worked until recently with a youth against violence group.

He worries they cannot walk the streets alone.

"We have to be in a group just in order to protect ourselves," he said.

His hope, and the hope of others, is that victims will speak out.

"We're aware this is a profound issue in the community and this could take a long time. I don't think we should look for easy solutions," Troia said.