Latino Community Calls on Federal Officials to Conduct A Full and Prompt Investigation into a Vicious Fatal Attack on Latinos and Suffolk Police’s Failure to Protect Latinos
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 31, 2014
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The Department of Justice is being called upon to conduct a full investigation into the unsolved murder and vicious attack against two Latino men four years ago. LatinoJustice PRLDEF is also asking the US Department of Justice to investigate the Suffolk County Police Department’s inability to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The attacks against the murder victim, Jose Sanchez, and the vicious attack against Antonio Tum in 2010 came only two years after the murder of Marcelo Lucero, who was attacked by teenagers in a hate crime. The attacks against Sanchez and Tum came during the time when the DOJ was investigating the SCPD for its systemic abuse of the Latino community. Soon after the murder of Lucero in 2008, a DOJ investigation focused on discriminatory policing allegations, including claims that the SCPD failed to investigate crimes and hate crime incidents involving Latinos. They also investigated allegations that the SCPD discouraged Latino victims from filing complaints against the police.
In 2013, Suffolk County entered into an agreement with the DOJ to implement new policies and procedures to ensure nondiscrimination in the provision of police services to Latino communities in Suffolk County. Since that time, the Suffolk County District Attorney arrested and charged a SCPD sergeant with systemically robbing Latino motorists. Only one officer was charged in that crime, though more than 20 people have stepped forward to say they were also victims of similar crimes. The broader Latino community, joined by a coalition of advocates, is calling on the DOJ to immediately focus their resources on solving the murder of Sanchez and the attack on Tum. “The Department of Justice has the legal muscle and the investigative powers to take over this case and bring these perpetrators to Justice,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The inability of the police to solve these horrific crimes makes the entire Latino community fearful and distrustful of law enforcement.”
"All people in Suffolk County want to believe that crimes against all members of the community will be thoroughly investigated without regard to the race or ethnicity of the victim. Going forward, we hope this will become a reality for the Latino community in Suffolk and that genuine trust can be built between the Suffolk County Police Department and all its immigrant communities." Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director, Long Island Wins. “We are concerned with the lack of responsiveness from the Suffolk County Police Department in investigating crimes committed against Latinos,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Suffolk County and Long Island at large are home to thousands of immigrants who deserve equal protections against acts of violence from their police departments. It is imperative for police-community relations that crimes against Latinos and other immigrants be investigated; this will help make Suffolk County safer for all its residents. We stand with our partners, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Long Island Immigrant Alliance, Make the Road NY, The Hagedorn Foundation, SEPA Mujer, Long Island Wins, CARECEN, NYCLU and Long Island Immigrant Student Advocates, in calling for a Department of Justice probe into the matter.”
"After five years of the killing of Marcelo Lucero Latinos in Suffolk County continue to be a target. We demand concrete actions and solutions that will bring trust between the community and Suffolk County Police.” Osman Canales from Long Island Immigrant Student Advocates. "Immigrants will only trust the police when the police are accountable. Since the killing of Marcelo Lucero there have been important changes in police policies regarding immigrants, but police who were part of the structures of discrimination within the department have never been held accountable. That needs to end." Pat Young, Executive Director of CARECEN. "The Suffolk County Police Department has made progress in building trust with advocates and the Latino community, but there is still a long way to go," said Amol Sinha, Director of the Suffolk Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "We need oversight and accountability, and we stand ready to work with the SCPD and the DOJ to ensure that all Suffolk residents are protected without regard to race, ethnicity or other identity."
“We rely on the police to protect us from harm and to promote fairness and justice in our communities. However, the despicable practice of racial profiling, has led to countless people living in fear and has created a system of law enforcement that casts Latinos as suspects.” Martha Maffei-Executive Director at SEPA Mujer, a Latina immigrant rights organization. "Murders and brutality against immigrants in Suffolk County are not something new. From the murder of Israel Perez and Magdeleno Escamilla in 2000, to the murder of Marcelo Lucero in 2008, to the unsolved murder of Jose Sanchez, it is clear that hate crimes against immigrants in Suffolk have been happening for quite some time. The failure of Suffolk County police department to investigate hate crimes, has contributed to a strong distrust towards law enforcement in the affected communities, as well as an overwhelming climate of fear. Suffolk County police have the responsibility to address these conditions and assist all victims of crime, documented or not."-Victoria Daza, Long Island Jobs with Justice.
“While we acknowledge the efforts of some in the Suffolk County Police Department to improve community relations, the Department’s persistent failure to investigate criminal complaints filed by Latinos, its enforcement practices that target Latinos, and its inability to investigate its own make clear the need for systemic change. Make the Road New York stands with our partners in the call for the Department of Justice to help us bring about these much needed changes because Latinos in Suffolk County can no longer wait to feel safe in their communities." Carlos Reyes, Member of Make the Road New York.
Sanchez and Tum were attacked in 2010 near a wooded area in Shirley. The police have not released any autopsies and have not determined who committed the attack. The Sanchez’ family has received no information about how he was killed. The family has requested information from the medical examiner but has yet to receive it.
The Department of Justice did open a criminal investigation into the attack over a year ago, but has not opened a noncriminal investigation to determine if the attempt to either keep it from public view or to solve it was due to the race of the victims. LatinoJustice PRLDEF and other Latino advocates in Suffolk County are asking DOJ to do so as part of a campaign to end to the series of bias based attacks, mostly unsolved, against them.