Would You Stop a Hate Crime in Progress?

Most witnesses did not step in when a Hispanic man was attacked on the street.

ByABC News
March 13, 2009, 11:10 AM

March 14, 2009— -- Jose Sucuzhanay was walking home from a party in Brooklyn, N.Y., last December when two strangers attacked him with an aluminum bat.

"They were about to get home, like maybe 50 feet from the home," Jose's brother Diego Sucuzhanay said. "Two guys jumped out of the SUV and Jose was attacked and hit his head. ... He was knocked out. And ... they kept hitting [Jose] with a baseball bat."

Doctors operated to stop the bleeding in his brain but the damage was too great, and Jose Sucuzhanay died a week later from his injuries.

But this wasn't just a random attack -- police said it was a hate crime, committed because Sucuzhanay was Hispanic. And it happens more than you think. So ABC's "What Would You Do?" decided to see how people would react if they witnessed an attack against a person because he was Hispanic. Diego Sucuzhanay joined us.

It was a typical winter afternoon on a busy street in Newark, N.J., when, suddenly, things seemed to take a frightening turn. Passersby saw a lone Hispanic man being verbally and physically attacked by three young men in the middle of the sidewalk.

The victim, a Hispanic actor hired by "What Would You Do?," wore plenty of padding and, although his bloodied face looked real, it was the work of a makeup artist. The assailants, three young white actors, approached the victim as hidden cameras rolled.

From our control room inside Mmm Bellos Pub, we watched people's reactions. Many walked right by.

"Some of them appeared Latino themselves," ABC News correspondent John Quinones noted. "You would think they would jump in."

Max Walter, a 30-something Ecuadorean man, stood and stared as the actor was beaten. After the attackers walked away, our actor was left on the floor begging for help. Walter witnessed the entire beating and did little to come to his aide.

"Why didn't you help?" Quinones asked.

"They're attacking him because he's Latino, and if I get involved, they'll attack me," Walter replied.

But Walter wasn't the only silent passerby.

Alberto Machado also saw the fight and kept on going.

"Well, I saw a little blood over there," he said. "All he needed was a little ice."