The estate of Marcelo Lucero - the Ecuadorean immigrant assaulted by a group of youths and then stabbed to death two years ago - has filed a $40 million civil rights lawsuit against Suffolk County and its police department, the Town of Brookhaven and the Village of Patchogue.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, also accused 10 unidentified police officers of violating Lucero's civil rights by failing to take appropriate action to deter the assault that took Lucero's life the evening of Nov. 8, 2008.
Lucero was attacked and stabbed while he was walking home from work near Railroad Avenue and Stephen Street in Patchogue, the complaint stated.
The federal lawsuit was filed by Luis Almonte, the administrator of Lucero's estate. The complaint charges that police actions violated Lucero's 14th Amendment rights and caused his wrongful death. The county, local towns and police department were also accused of being careless and reckless in hiring police officers who, the suit charges, "lacked the maturity, sensibility and intelligence" necessary for the job.
At a morning news conference in Islip Monday, County Executive Steve Levy said he'd just heard about the lawsuit. "We're going to refer it to the county attorney because it's subject to litigation," Levy said.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer addressed the lawsuit Monday afternoon.
"We believe this lawsuit will ultimately shatter the myth that there was knowledge of pattern of events," said Dormer. "Not a single elected official, advocate or media representative reported any kind of pattern prior to this awful event."
Fernando Mateo, a spokesman for the Lucero family, said at a news conference outside the Brooklyn courthouse that the suit was being filed "because of willful blindness that the authorities had, knowing that these kids were going out there day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, and beating up on Hispanic immigrants in Patchogue and in Suffolk County."
Mateo, who also is head of the nonprofit advocacy group Hispanics Across America, blasted the county and police leadership for allowing what he said was a volatile situation to exist.
"The problem is about the police department not protecting the Hispanic community as well as they should have, the same way they protect the white community," continued Mateo. "It was very clear that they knew what was going on and they did nothing,"