FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Several immigrant Hispanic day laborers were victims of what police call premeditated and vicious hate crimes over the weekend in Suffolk County.
They were lured to fake job sites and attacked.READ MORE: Protesters Attempt To Storm Entrance Of Barclays Center Over Nets' Refusal To Allow Kyrie Irving To Play Due To NYC Vaccine Mandate
Day laborers say they often hide in the shadows waiting to be hired in the trust of total strangers, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Monday.
“He went by a dead end street and he hold the neck like this, punched it a couple of times, and then my brother tried to loosen off and run away,” said Lalo Cervantes, a brother of one of the victims.
That victim attempted to run away from the alleged perpetrator of hate crimes.
Police said Christopher Cella of Selden lured three older Hispanic men into coming with him at separate times, and then attacked two of them.
The victims were standing at a 7-Eleven in Farmingville, and down the road at La Placita when they were transported to near a condo complex and construction site, where cameras were rolling. They were beaten and choked.
Their friends and relatives spoke to McLogan on Monday.
“We are coming here looking for work,” Lorenzo Ortega said, adding when asked if he’s scared, “Yes, we’re scared. Never know if somebody come back do it again.”
Cella was charged with hate crimes, harassment, and unlawful imprisonment. He lives with his family, who appeared tearful in court.
“I don’t know what came over him to do it. It’s not him, not him,” said the suspect’s brother, Daniel Fanuele.READ MORE: NYPD: Knife Fight Spills Into Midtown Pizzeria, 2 Taken Into Custody
Doreen Foracco, Cella’s mother, said he could be suffering from some mental health issues.
“Yes, he is. Right now he is on drugs that are not prescribed for him,” Foracco said.
Cella’s family called his behavior “out of character.”
“I hope the court sees that he needs help, more than incarceration,” said Christopher Cella, the suspect’s father.
“Deeply outrageous and upsetting, especially these areas of Suffolk County there has been a history of targeted violence towards immigrants, towards Latinos,” said Rodman Serrano of the group Make The Road NY.
CBS2 was here in September of 2000 when two men posing as contractors promised work to two Hispanic day laborers, drove them to a warehouse about a mile away, and savagely beat them with a crow bar and 2 by 4.
Suffolk County Legislator Sam Gonzalez said protection is needed.
“A trailer there where those that are needing day laborers can go there, put a report down, so that they know these are the guys who are legit,” Gonzalez said.
But until then, “This is the risk you have to take, but we are coming to work every day,” Cervantes said.
Police are urging any other possible victims to come forward.MORE NEWS: With Less Than A Week Before NYC's Deadline, Municipal Workers Hold Anti-Vaccine Mandate Rally On Staten Island
A judge placed Cella on supervised release with GPS monitoring until his next court date.