New York, NY —
A vigil was held Friday night near the Long Island Railroad station where an Ecuadorian immigrant was brutally murdered on September 8th.
REPORTER: Authorities say 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero was fatally stabbed after a gang of teenagers attacked him. A 17-year-old Patchogue high school senior is accused of inflicting the fatal blow, and 6 others face charges as well. Local teens say for some kids, it's become routine to get drunk and look for immigrants to mug. The Superintendent of Patchogue Schools, Michael Mostow says the killing has shocked everyone.
MOSTOW: I think it is put an enormous amount of fear in the community, I think that this is an aberration, this kind of hate, certainly in our schools had not existed.
REPORTER: But as the Latino population has increased in Suffolk since the early 90s, so too have the number of bias crimes. There was a near-death beating of two Mexican day laborers in 2001, and the burning of a Mexican family’s home in 2003.
The killing of Lucero has drawn attention from immigrant rights groups nationwide, who say manslaughter as a hate crime is not a tough enough charge. A representative from Ecuador's immigration office, Luis Moreno, also has spoken up
MORENO: [translated] These events cannot be left with impunity or be forgotten, because it would be the most dangerous and saddest thing, dangerous because, many people act this way, violently, because they think nothing will happen to them.
REPORTER: And Equador’s ambassor to the U-S noted that the killing happened the same week the US is celebrating progress in race relations -- in the election of the first African American president.
The Lawyer for the Ecuadorian Consul in Queens has also been watching Suffolk's Lucero case closely. Gerardo Mejia says it has implications for other Latinos.
MEJIA: We don't know whether Mr Lucero was the 5th or 6th person to be victimized that night we don't know, there might be other persons out there, who simply because of their fear due to their immigrant status have not come forward.
REPORTER: While there may be witnesses in the shadows, there's also hope that the Lucero killing will inspire solidarity among Latinos -- and the groups that advocate for them. Sergio Rodriguez is executive director of Hispanics Across America.
RODRIGUEZ: The thing with this case is, because it has received national attention, it is a great forum to educate, not only our people, as to what their rights are, but the rest of America as to what is right from wrong.
REPORTER: A grand jury is deciding whether to upgrade charges against the seven accused teens in the Lucero case, and police continue to investigate whether there are other victims.