Brooklyn hate crime victim dies

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Monday December 8, 2008

A 31-year-old Ecuadorian who was attacked with a baseball bat and bottles and repeatedly kicked early Sunday morning as he and his brother walked home in Bushwick died due to massive head injuries he suffered in what police are investigating as a anti-gay and anti-Latino hate crime.

The New York Police Department did not immediately return request for comment, but officials later identified the man as Jose Sucuzhanay. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told reporters at a City Hall press conference yesterday four men in an SUV attacked the Sucuzhanay and his brother, Romel, on the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place as they walked home. A law enforcement official told the New York Times the brothers were walking "arm-in-arm" to support each other after a night of drinking. The paper further reported one of the men broke a bottle over Sucuzhanay's head before his accomplishes beat him with a baseball bat and kicked him while his brother ran for help.

The attackers, who remain at-large, reportedly used anti-LGBT and anti-Latino slurs during the assault.

"Those who perpetrated this crime must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Quinn said.

City Councilmember Diana Reyna [D-Bushwick] joined Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Chelsea], City Councilmember Letitia James [Working Families-Fort Greene], state Assemblymember Carmen Arroyo [D-Bronx], New York City Anti-Violence Project executive director Sharon Stapel and other elected officials, clergy and representatives of various Ecuadorian and Latino advocacy and community organizations at the press conference. Reyna echoed Quinn's outrage.

"Those who perpetrated this crime must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

"It is unfathomable and horrible we have to deal with issues of hatred that are destroying our society," she said.

Located in Northeast Brooklyn along the L, J, M, and Z trains, Bushwick is home to a significant Latino-Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Ecuadorians and other recent immigrants from Central and South America-population. The neighborhood has begun to gentrify in recent years due to a lower crime rate, its proximity to Manhattan and an abundance of converted warehouse lofts, new condos and other relatively affordable housing stock.

This attack comes a month after a group of seven Long Island teenagers allegedly attacked Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue. Local authorities have charged Jeffrey Conroy with second-degree murder as a hate crime for allegedly fatally stabbing Lucero in the chest on Nov. 8. They also charged him and his alleged co-conspirators with hate crime and conspiracy counts.

Karina Claudio, an organizer for Gays & Lesbians of Bushwick Empowered, told EDGE her group and the Audre Lorde Project plan to organize a vigil in the coming days. She added she feels anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT sentiments remain all too common.

"We deal with both in our organization," Claudio said. "We are very concerned about what happened."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.