A Hispanic man told investigators he was beaten and robbed in a racially charged attack in a Long Island community where another Hispanic was killed in an alleged hate crime last fall, police said.
The latest incident happened around 11:30 p.m. Friday in Patchogue, where the earlier attack prompted a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into allegations of hate crimes on eastern Long Island.
The victim in the latest episode told investigators that three young white men called him over and engaged him in conversation as he walked along Division Avenue in Patchogue, about 50 miles east of Manhattan.
One man then hit him in the face and knocked him to the ground, and the three stole cash and other items from him while making disparaging remarks about his ancestry, he told police. Police didn’t release his name and age, and they said Sunday that they didn’t immediately know whether he had been taken to a hospital.
Investigators believe there may be witnesses to the attack, which came nine months after Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero was accosted and stabbed to death while walking near the Patchogue train station. He was a 37-year-old dry cleaning worker.
Seven teenagers have pleaded not guilty to hate crime and other charges in Lucero’s death. Authorities say it was part of a marauding, anti-Hispanic crime spree conducted by the suspects, who are charged in attacks going back nearly a year.
Lucero’s killing attracted international attention and spurred the Justice Department to probe bias crimes in the area. The agency didn’t immediately return a telephone call Sunday night about the status of that investigation.
After Lucero’s death, several Hispanics said they had been afraid to report crimes to police because of questions about their immigration statuses. Some said nothing was done when they did report attacks.
In response to the slaying, Suffolk County Police Department Commissioner Richard Dormer named the department’s highest-ranking Hispanic officer to lead the precinct responsible for patrolling the Patchogue area. Dormer has repeatedly said police don’t ask crime victims about their immigration statuses.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has been a vocal advocate for a crackdown on illegal immigration, and critics accused him after Lucero’s death of fostering an atmosphere of intolerance. Levy vehemently argued that his stance on immigration had no bearing on criminal activity.
Tensions over Long Island’s influx of thousands of immigrants from Central and South America have percolated for nearly a decade.
Two men are serving long prison terms for attempted murder after luring two Mexican laborers to an eastern Long Island warehouse in 2000 with the promise of work, then beating them with shovels and landscaping tools. In 2003, a Mexican family’s home in Farmingville – about 15 miles from Patchogue – was destroyed when teenagers tossed fireworks through a window on the Fourth of July.