Attack Just The Latest Against Latino Community

STATEN ISLAND (1010 WINS/CBS 2) — Police patrols are out in full force on Staten Island following an arrest in another attack on a Mexican immigrant over the weekend.

The 15-year-old suspect was arrested Monday on charges of robbery, assault and harassment as a hate crime.  His name wasn’t released because he is a minor. Police are still looking for two other suspects.

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Police say the victim — 18-year-old Christian Vasquez — was returning from work at a Manhattan restaurant when four or five men accosted him around 2:30 a.m. Saturday near Castleton Avenue and Simonson Place in Port Richmond. They punched him and used anti-Mexican epithets. He was treated and released.  The suspects, two black and one Latino, also stole $10 from him.

First On 1010 WINS: Steve Sandberg Speaks with Victim Christian Vasquez

“They were really kicking me hard and going at me when I was on the floor,” Vasquez said. The victim also said he believed his attackers may have been “drunk” and looked “kind of high.”

When asked what was going through his mind during the attack, Vasquez told 1010 WINS reporter Steve Sandberg “I was going to die…I was definitely going to die.”

While investigators aren’t sure what exactly the motive is for these crimes against the Hispanic community, they are making it clear that they are taking them seriously.

CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman also spoke to Vasquez, who spoke candidly about the NYPD’s ability to contain the beatings.

“I just want to tell the police they’re useless, I guess,” Vasquez said. “[The attackers] can do whatever they want, without getting caught.”

He explained how he was first caught off guard by a Latino, distracting him just before three blacks attacked him from behind – despite all the police that have flooded the borough since the attacks began.

“All four of them just started beating me, calling me names,” he said. “Mexican, F-ing Mexican, you know, wetback.”

Community activist Rev. Terry Troia said the latest attack is different from others that have recently happened in Port Richmond’s Hispanic neighborhood, because it happened despite a heavy police presence, designed to prevent these types of assaults.

“It was like an act of defiance to the presence here,” she told CBS 2. “It made a statement.”

Vasquez said the attack is especially hurtful because “all this happened because I’m Mexican. My parents brought me here from Mexico to get a better life, and all this is happening.”

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Vasquez is the 11th and latest victim. He was attacked Saturday while walking home.  On Monday night he went to a meeting aimed at stopping the violence, CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey reports.

“I got confronted by some bad people that don’t respect life, don’t respect the good things, and I hope this changes,” Vasquez said.

That’s what the gathering was aimed at accomplishing, with ideas from youngsters on how to prevent other teens from going on the attack.

“More surveillance in the neighborhoods,” came one request from the crowd.

Police are doing just that, setting up towers and meeting residents. While their presence didn’t deter Saturday’s attack, city leaders said cops alone aren’t enough.

“Another key part is the community standing up and saying the people who are doing this are cowards. They don’t represent us. They don’t speak for us,” City Council Speak Christine Quinn said.

But these attackers are not intimidated and are casting a dark cloud over the community, bringing unwanted attention and worry for people like Pavia, concerned about his safety just because of where’s he’s from.

“I think that people no like us. I don’t know why,” Pavia said.

Those who live here are committed to reclaiming their streets. How or when that happens is the question so many wonder about but no one seems to have answers to.

“I believe there’s a strong anti-immigrant sentiment that has emerged, not just in this community but in other parts of Staten Island, and in other parts of the nation,” Troia said. “I think that’s always an underlying issue.”

But police aren’t so sure that’s what’s motivating the Staten Island criminals.

The assaults have been uniformly unprovoked and vicious. While some Latinos feels the Mexican community is being targeted, police question whether the attackers are simply preying on anyone likely to be carrying large amounts of cash.

Whether the attacks are racially motivated or not, most residents agree that they are sparking fear and frustration.

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The NYPD has called in patrols from all across the city to assist in the show of force on Staten Island — and they say they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.