Documentary: After the Murder Trial, a Hate Crime Still Vexes Long Island

Marcelo Lucero’s attackers have been convicted, but thanks to a new documentary, his murder case is again in the limelight, three and a half years after a teenager stabbed the immigrant from Ecuador for being Latino, Long Island Wins reported.

A new bilingual documentary, “Deputized,” or in Spanish “¿Cómo Pudo Pasar?,” “explores the crime from a multitude of angles, probing into the lives of the victim, the killer, and the social and political conditions that brought them together,” writes Ted Hesson of Long Island Wins, who himself covered the trail of Lucero’s attackers and consulted with the documentary makers.

Lucero, 37, and his childhood friend Angel Loja were attacked by a group of seven Long Island teens on November 8, 2008, in Patchogue, Long Island. Lucero reportedly tried to fight back by swinging his belt, but one of the teens, Jeffrey Conroy, pulled a knife and stabbed him. Lucero died an hour later at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center.

Hesson describes Long Island’s reaction to the murder, and to the practice of “beaner hopping” — drunk teenagers out searching for Latinos to attack which the teenagers told police was their term for seeking out Mexicans to attack.

Jeffrey Conroy (Left) and Marcelo Lucero (Right) (Photos via Long Island Wins)

How could this happen on Long Island, a place that had been populated over generations by Italian, Irish, and German immigrants, and now drew newcomers from Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and South and Central America—a place that sits in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty?

Susan Hagedorn, a nurse-turned filmmaker and the daughter of late Long Island philanthropist Horace Hagedorn, explores the aftermath of the crime and the teenagers’ trial, Hesson reports.

The documentary is the rawest and most comprehensive examination of the Lucero killing to date, providing intimate interviews with the Lucero family, as well as with Conroy and his father.

After the attack, Deputized moves chronologically. By May 2010, the fates of the attackers had been decided: Six of the teens pleaded guilty to gang assault; the seventh, Conroy, went to trial and was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. He received the maximum sentence, 25 years in prison.

Marcelo Lucero’s attackers had been brought to justice. But on Long Island, the issue was far from resolved. The seven teens had been involved in other attacks on Latinos, and such attacks were not unique to this group, according to area high school students. Yet in the year before the killing, Suffolk County only reported a single hate crime. Were victims reporting these crimes to police? If not, why? If so, why weren’t the police investigating them?

The documentary places some of the blame for the incident on the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some Long Island politicians, especially former Nassau Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who was often accused of demonizing undocumented immigrants during his two terms in office, and famously said that Lucero’s death, anywhere else, would have been a “one day story.”

Deputized is a blitz of perspectives on a crime that was both vicious and vexing, and which left a community grasping for answers but perhaps afraid to unpack the deeper social forces that enabled the killing to occur. In the coming months, it would be great to see screenings of the film on Long Island, but in settings where residents will be able to have constructive and impactful dialogues.

3 Comments

  1. Rev. Allan B. Ramirez says:

    The article makes reference to “the practice of “beaner hopping” – drunk teenagers out searching for Latinos to attack.” The teenagers actually told police that they would go out looking for “Mexicans” to beat up. The distinction is important because it speaks to the ignorance of those who would look at all brown skin people as “Mexicans”, thus the term “beaner” a reference to those who eat beans.
    I would also point out that Steve Levy, was the Suffolk County Executive, not Nassau County. I am a Nassau County resident, and feel offended (I am sure this was not your intention) at the thought that this monster served as my County Executive.

  2. Indrani Sen says:

    Thanks for those corrections, and apologies for the errors, Rev. Ramirez — you’ll find them fixed above.

  3. Join our facebook page for updates on the film and case.

    http://www.facebook.com/Deputized

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