There were candles for Kenny Lazo's birthday this year, but not on a birthday cake.
Instead, they were laid on a sidewalk in Bay Shore, where Lazo's friends and family gathered to mourn the 24-year-old man's death, and protest the lack of action taken against the five police officers who they believe caused it.
In April 2008, Lazo, 24, was chased down and struck with metal flashlights after police said he reached for an officer's gun during a traffic stop on the Robert Moses Causeway. He was then brought to the Third Precinct, where he fell unconscious before being pronounced dead a short time later at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore.
A police investigation found the officers acted appropriately, and a grand jury did not indict the Suffolk officers on criminal charges.
But Lazo's family has filed a $55 million civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Central Islip charging Suffolk prosecutors and police with rushing to exonerate the officers involved in Lazo's death.
"We're here so people don't forget about Kenny and what happened," said Lazo's mother, Patricia Gonzalez, 50, of Lakeland, Fla.
About 25 of Lazo's friends and family members gathered outside the Third Precinct Wednesday night. Many passed out fliers and held signs showing a photo of Lazo's beaten body at the morgue. Other signs read, "Murderers on payroll," and "We want justice."
When cars stopped at a nearby traffic light, Lazo's loved ones passed them fliers through their car windows.
"It's an emotional roller coaster," said Jennifer Gonzalez, the mother of Lazo's 7-year-old son, also named Kenny. "There's no way of accepting that he's not here anymore."
Lazo's mother said protesting outside a police station is not how she imagined marking what would have been her son's 26th birthday. "This is just another year that goes by that I can't celebrate another birthday with my son," she said.
With Ann Givens