Who's to Blame for Marcello's Murder?

Leaders say N.Y. murder of Marcello Lucero spotlights anti-Hispanic sentiment.

ByABC News
November 14, 2008, 5:34 PM

Nov. 17, 2008— -- When a detective came to Joselo Lucero's door and told him his brother had been fatally stabbed by seven teenagers, he thought for sure police had the wrong guy.

He quickly dialed his brother's cell and waited to hear the familiar voice on the other line.

"He never picked up the phone," Lucero told ABCNews.com

Marcello Lucero, a 37-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant from Patchogue, N.Y., was stabbed to death Nov. 8 by a gang of teens -- six white and one Hispanic.

Media reports have said the teens set out that night to attack a Mexican, but a Suffolk County district attorney office spokesman couldn't substantiate those claims.

Now his death has sparked a shock wave of anger and sadness in this community on New York's Long Island, with Hispanic leaders saying it took a murder for attention to finally be turned to ongoing racial tension between Hispanics, whites and Suffolk County officials.

The Rev. Allan Ramirez, pastor of the Brookville Reformed Church in neighboring Nassau County, has been involved in the Suffolk County Latino community for years.

He said Lucero's death is not an isolated incident, but the latest in a growing list of anti-Hispanic violence.

"And most likely, sadly, it will happen again," Ramirez said.

In past years, there have been beatings, robberies, vandalized properties, and reports of houses being burned down.

"We know when we talk in the streets, when we talk to the community, that hate crimes are occurring on a regular basis," Ramirez said.

There were six anti-Hispanic hate crimes in both 2005 and 2006 in Suffolk County and one in 2007, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, a number way off base with anecdotal evidence from the community.

Fear and Blame

Joselo Lucero said he's nervous living in that community.

"Sometimes you drive in the car and they see you're Hispanic, they'll pull you over," he said.

But Ramirez said only a very small percentage of crimes against Hispanics are reported due to fear in the community of both police and lawmakers.

The Suffolk County Police Department did not respond to several requests for comment by ABCNews.com.

County executive Steve Levy has been vilified in recent media reports after he was quoted as saying Lucero's death would have been a "one-day story" had it occurred in Nassau County and that it had only received media attention to draw attention to his stance on immigration policies.

Two days later, in a letter to the newspaper Newsday, Levy apologized, saying that "by defending myself, I deflected attention from what our true focus should be -- the denunciation by all people of good will of this vicious act.

"It was absolutely the wrong time for me to suggest that coverage of events in Suffolk is treated differently by the media," he continued in his letter. "The horrible incident is indeed more than a one-day story. It was a reminder of how far we as a society still have to go."