A few hundred people on Dec. 14, 2008 marched in Brooklyn to protest last week's fatal beating of a 31-year-old Ecuadorean man -- an incident authorities say may have been a hate crime.
The demonstrators -- holding signs reading "No more hate crimes" -- walked a half-mile in the neighborhood where police say Jose Sucuzhanay was hit in the head with a bottle and beaten with an aluminum baseball bat on December 7.
Sucuzhanay died of his injuries Friday at Elmhurst Hospital, hours before his mother arrived in New York from Ecuador, his family said.
Police said Sucuzhanay's attackers yelled racial slurs; no arrests have been made in the case. One of his brothers, Diego Sucuzhanay, said Sunday he is convinced the attack was a hate crime.
"Nothing was taken from him," said Diego Sucuzhanay, who didn't join the demonstration, opting instead to help his mother make arrangements to return the body to Ecuador.
Police said Jose Sucuzhanay and his brother Romel had left a party at a church when several men approached them in a car in Brooklyn's Bushwick section, about a block from the brothers' home. The men shouted anti-gay and anti-Latino vulgarities and attacked the brothers, police said.
Romel, 34, escaped with minor scrapes and has talked with detectives. Police have released a sketch of one possible suspect in the case.
Police are offering a $22,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the attack.
In a statement, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the attack "a pointless and gutless crime." He promised authorities would find and prosecute those responsible.
Family spokesman Francisco Moya said Jose Sucuzhanay had lived in the United States for more than a decade and was a legal resident.
Diego Sucuzhanay said Jose set up a successful real estate business in a low-income area, thinking he could make a difference there.
He said his brother wanted to help everyone and hired a diverse team, including four African-Americans and two Latinos. He was raising two children: a 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.
"We were proud of him," Diego Sucuzhanay said.
He said the family had wanted Jose's mother to get to his bedside before he died. Doctors told them Jose was brain dead since the attack, and that machines kept him alive until his heart failed Friday.
At a press conference Sunday outside the hospital, Diego Sucuzhanay touched his chest and said: "My heart is broken, but my brother's [memory] will live on. "
Asked in an interview with CNN how his brother would be remembered, he paused several seconds and answered: "For being the victim of a hate crime."
Though he didn't participate in the demonstration, he said he was grateful to those who did, and that everyone needs to practice tolerance.
"We definitely have to speak out," he said.
Mar 3, 2009
Two men accused of killing an Ecuadorean immigrant while shouting Hispanic and gay slurs are now charged with additional crimes that could send them to prison for 78 years if convicted, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Hakim Scott, 25, and Keith Phoenix, 28, were indicted on charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime in the beating death of Jose Sucuzhanay, and first-degree assault as a hate crime in the attack on his brother, Romel. They also face weapon and attempted assault charges.
The defendants are accused of attacking the brothers as they walked arm-in-arm to keep warm on Dec. 7.
They were arrested last week and pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder as a hate crime. They have been held without bail.
District Attorney Charles Hynes said it was not certain when they would be arraigned on the new charges.
The brothers were walking home from a bar after a party in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Romel Sucuzhanay had put his coat around his brother to keep him warm.
Phoenix and Scott, also leaving a party, pulled up in an SUV. The two groups exchanged words and the fight escalated. Scott hit Romel Sucuzhanay with a beer bottle, and Phoenix savagely beat Jose Sucuzhanay with an aluminum baseball bat, prosecutors said. Jose Sucuzhanay died several days later.
Messages left for their attorneys were not immediately returned Tuesday.
Phoenix says he had acted in self defense because it appeared Jose Sucuzhanay was reaching for a gun. Hynes refuted those claims at a press conference attended by a slew of city leaders and activists.
Jose Arrufat, an attorney for the Sucuzhanay family, said they were thankful for the exhaustive investigative efforts.
The family is trying to pull together to care for Jose Sucuzhanay's children, 5-year-old Joanna, who has Down syndrome, and 10-year-old Brian.
"The family has suffered tremendously," Arrufat said in Spanish. "It was a brutal murder."