Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Seven Long Island Teens Kill Ecuadorean Immigrant in Hate Crime

Seven eastern Long Island teenagers face serious charges after they set out to "beat up some Mexicans" and ended up killing 37 year-old Ecuadorean immigrant Marcello Lucero. Lucero worked at a dry cleaners in Riverhead and was near the Patchogue train station when he was approached by the seven teens - a junior and six seniors from Patchogue-Medford High School - and was beat up. The assault culminated in a knife being pushed through Lucero's chest, allegedly by 17 year-old Jeffrey Conroy. The teens were arrested shortly after the assault nearby.

Suffolk County officials have charged the teens with hate crimes, and the prosecutor seems to be quoting the young men when he talks about their desire to do harm to someone of Mexican descent, leading me to believe that some type of confession or something similar has been offered up. A profile of the young men have come out. The alleged stabber - Conroy - is a three sport athlete at Patchogue-Medford and does not have a record. At least two of the teens have a Latino background - one being half-Puerto Rican and another having a half-Puerto Rican grandmother. The mother of one of the suspects claimed, "How can it be a hate crime? My son is half-Hispanic?" When it comes to the law, however, it does not matter what ethnicity you are; if you target someone based solely on certain immutable characteristics (ethnicity being one of them) you are guilty of a hate crime. It also does not matter if you are incorrect (as in this case, when the teens went to target a Mexican and killed an Ecuadorean) as long as your intent was based on the aforementioned set of immutable characteristics.

What is perplexing about this case - beyond the fact that people like this still exist in society - is that one of the teens is already involved in a fatal home burglary, in which the victim was 38 year-old Carlton Shaw and was found outside his home with his three year-old son asleep at his side. Overton eventually pled down to burglary in that case. My question is why is someone who is involved in a fatal burglary not in jail awaiting sentencing? Given that he was out of jail, why would his parents allow him out of the house? Are there no repercussions for his behavior? Did he not have a court-ordered curfew or some kind of sanctions because of his admittance of guilt in a case that led to a man's death?

Another perplexing thing is that while all seven teens are charged with gang assault as a hate crime, only one (Conroy) is charged with manslaughter as a hate crime. Why aren't all seven charged with manslaughter? In another case happening in New York, three men are charged with the death of NYPD officer Russel Timoshenko, despite the fact that only one of the three shot at the deceased officer. The definition of manslaughter in the second degree is "when he recklessly causes the death of another person." It was certainly reckless to go and "beat up some Mexicans" and it resulted in the death of a human being. It seems that the teens acted in concert (in that they surrounded Lucero and all beat on him before he was stabbed) and were all arrested together after the incident.

If these teens do not spend the majority of their adult lives behind bars, something is seriously amiss with this system. When you have such little regard for human life that you go out and beat on a man due to his ethnicity - resulting in his death - what use do you serve society other than as an example of what is wrong? What is sad is that it seems that Conroy could have had a future (the others could have, too, but the Newsday article seemed to focus on him), but he threw it all away on something stupid like this. And while the government certainly has a responsibility when it comes to dangerous individuals being out on the streets (in this case, the example of Overton), parents do not get off scot free. Schools don't raise kids, government programs don't raise kids, video games and television don't raise kids; parents do. I feel for some parents, because they try everything they can and still their kid screws up; other times the parents don't get involved as much as they should with their kids' lives and the kid screws up (I've personally seen both examples). I'm not going to judge the parents of these teens because I do not know them and that would be unfair. At the end of the day, a mother is without a son, a brother without his brother, because of the incredibly selfish acts of a group of teenagers with no regard for others. Hopefully these teens are locked up for a long time and cannot terrorize others again. Peace.

Photos - The seven teens being led out of a police station for their arraignment in Islip on Monday (Newsday), Victim Marcello Lucero (ABC News), A memorial set up to commemorate Lucero at the stabbing scene (1010WINS)

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