WASHINGTON – The Hispanic community commemorated Tuesday the Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez, who died a year ago beaten to death by a group of teenagers yelling racist phrases at him, and asked for a federal law against hate crimes.
Ramirez, 25, was attacked on July 12, 2008, by six adolescents as he was on his way home in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.
Several of the assailants were members of the Shenandoah Valley High School football team.
The Mexican had lived illegally in the United States for seven years, working two jobs to support his family back in Guanajuato, but his crime that night was another: looking Hispanic, his tearful fiance, Crystal Dillman, recalled Tuesday.
“He was my companion, the father of my children, to whom he wanted to give a better life than he had,” Crystal said at a press conference organized by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund that has stood by the family throughout the process.
Ramirez remained in a coma and died two days later in hospital.
The teens who beat him faced charges of homicide and ethnic intimidation, among others, but were eventually found not guilty of the more serious crimes and were sentenced to six months in prison.
Four teenagers were charged in Ramirez’s death. One of them pleaded guilty to unspecified federal charges and another admitted to taking part in the fight and was sent to a treatment center for 90 days.
Two other boys were convicted of simple assault, but jurors found them not guilty on more serious charges of ethnic intimidation and aggravated assault.
One of those defendants was likewise acquitted of third-degree murder.
The two teenagers found guilty of simple assault were sentenced to six months in jail, though they remain free pending appeal.
“I can’t believe that those who killed Luis are still free, it’s so hard to bear, above all for my children. How can I tell them their father isn’t coming back?” Crystal said.
“They’ve stolen part of my heart and that of my kids,” said the young woman, who received the support of other families who have also seen loved ones slain by racist fanaticism.
MALDEF said that in recent years racial attacks against Latinos have increased by 40 percent.
Last November, Marcelo Lucero, 37, was beaten and stabbed to death on Long Island, New York, by a group of adolescents that went after him just because he was Latino.
One month later, Ecuadorian immigrant Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhañay died in the New York borough of Brooklyn after being attacked by men shouting anti-Latino epithets.
Their families wanted to show solidarity Tuesday with the Ramirez family by telling their stories, speaking out against what they called an epidemic of racial attacks and urging the Senate to approve a federal hate-crimes statute that has already been passed by the House of Representatives.
“My family has had a very tough history. When I was six my dad died and my brother was the only person who took care of us. He had the dream of coming to the United States to find a better life, not only for himself but for his family,” said Jose, Marcelo Lucero’s brother.
“Seven guys beat him and stabbed him because he was Latino, but he could have been Chinese, from whatever country, white, Indian...” Lucero said, adding that one of them had a record for the death of another person.
“These guys can’t get away with it that easily. Everyone knows them and though it won’t give my brother his life back, they have to be punished for it,” he said.
Diego Sucuzhañay remembered his brother Jose as a hardworking, ambitious person whose dreams came to an end when he ran into a group of teenagers who ended his life with a bat and a bottle.
Jose left two children in Ecuador, one of them with Down syndrome. EFE