July 23, 2010 -- Police in a wealthy New Jersey suburb are looking for anyone who may have seen a group of teenagers brutally beat a local dishwasher while videotaping the attack.
Abelino Mazaniego, 47, was sitting on a Summit, N.J., park bench last Saturday after finishing his shift at a nearby restaurant when two teens ran up, threw a sheet over him and began pummeling the El Salvadorian immigrant with their fists.
The father and husband never regained consciousness after suffering severe head trauma, and he died on Tuesday.
"The brutality, as the facts come out or whatever we've seen, it's beyond senseless," said Colin Crasto, the manager and chef of Dabbawalla Restaurant, where Mazaniego worked for more than three years.
"I have no idea why kids that young would pick on somebody," Crasto said. "He just appeared to be a defenseless person sitting on a bench. I have no idea why they would have done it."
The Union County Prosecutor's Office has charged a 17-year-old whose name was not released because of his age and Khayri Williams-Clark, 18, with manslaughter.
A prosecutor's spokesman said the attack remained under investigation. A third teen who allegedly made the videotape that investigators said was distributed to a number of Summit teenagers has not been charged.
Though Mazaniego's beating was the latest in several attacks on Hispanic people in the New York area, prosecutors said there was nothing yet to indicate it was racially motivated.
The case against Williams-Clark, who lives in Summit, was referred today to a grand jury after he waived his right to appear in court. The juvenile also was scheduled to appear in court today.
Tom Rosenthal, a spokesman for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, confirmed that Williams-Clark was being held in $100,000 bond, but declined to comment on anything about the teen or a possible defense strategy.
"It's too early in the process," he said.
The office also is representing the 17-year-old.
A funeral will be held for Mazaniego in Summit on Monday, according to local reports.
Crasto said his body will then be flown home to El Salvador.
Beating Victim Was Married, a Father
Crasto said Mazaniego had proven himself to be a hard worker and was well-liked even though he only spoke Spanish, often leaving him with little way to communicate with his co-workers.
Crasto said he understood from other employees who speak snippets of Spanish that Mazaniego was married and had four children. He had his working papers and worked washing dishes and doing kitchen prep.
The night he was beaten, Mazaniego was let off work about two hours early. The restaurant was closed most of the day while the Crasto and most of the workers were at an off-site catering function. Mazaniego and a few others, he said, worked through lunch preparing for the next day and then left the restaurant around 8 p.m.
Crasto doesn't know much about what Mazaniego might have done that night, but believes he got a slice of pizza before sitting down on the bench not far from Dabbawallas.
According to authorities, the attack was unprovoked and Mazaniego was rushed suddenly by a group of teens.
Crasto, who has put photos of Mazaniego up at the restaurant, said he has not seen the beating video, nor does he want to.
"I would just rather keep the memory I have of him with me," he said.