In a surprise encounter, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy met for the first time Sunday with the family of Marcelo Lucero, expressing condolences to the slain Ecuadorean immigrant's brother and mother at a Catholic service in Patchogue marking the first anniversary of Lucero's death.
But Lucero's brother, Joselo, said he was taken aback by Levy's presence.
"I feel like I was ambushed here," Lucero said after the service at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Patchogue. "There are people I don't want to talk to."
Asked if he meant politicians such as Levy, Lucero said yes.
Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death on Nov. 8, 2008, near the Patchogue Long Island Rail Road station after being targeted by seven teenagers looking to attack Hispanics, authorities say. Levy, whose anti-illegal immigration rhetoric has drawn criticism, made national headlines for saying the killing would have been a "one-day story" had it happened in Nassau.
The hourlong service was intended to showcase an interfaith coalition against discrimination. Along with about 50 community members, Protestant and Jewish leaders from Patchogue attended. There were songs sung in Spanish, Bible readings and a bilingual recitation of the rosary.
"We have come together in this church to pray as one people," said the Rev. James Brady.
But the most dramatic event of the afternoon came before the service, when Levy approached Lucero and his mother, Rosario, in the front pew.
The county executive shook their hands and spoke to them quietly. Lucero said Levy told them he was sorry for their loss and thanked Lucero for speaking out about his brother. Lucero said little but nodded his head.
Levy sat two rows behind the family next to State Human Rights Commissioner Galen Kirkland.
During the service, Lucero spoke and at one point directly addressed Levy, saying, "You have a second chance to change, to do what you did wrong before, to now do better things."
"I probably should have said something" to the Lucero family, Pontieri said. "But I didn't even think of it."
After the service, Levy left without taking questions. In a statement released through spokesman Dan Aug, Levy said, "I continue to extend my hand and my heart in seeking to work together with anyone who would like to build bridges to heal our communities."
Aug said Levy had tried for months to arrange a meeting to talk to the Luceros without success. A scheduled meeting with Lucero's mother early this year did not happen because she fell ill.
Levy wrote to the family in Ecuador and reached out through intermediaries "to extend his heartfelt compassion to the family," Aug said.