Many shocked over acquittals in Mexican immigrants death

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PHILADELPHIA -- Many in the United States are shocked at the recent acquittals of two white teens in Shenandoah, Penn., for the beating death of Luis Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant.

Brandon Piekarsky, 16, was acquitted of third degree murder and ethnic intimidation and Derrick Donchak, 19, of aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon and ethnic intimidation. The two young men were found guilty of simple assault, a misdemeanor, and will be sentenced at a future time.

Because both have no prior criminal record, they may not face any prison time.

Another teen arrested for participating in the beating was Colin Walsh, 18. Walsh plead guilty in federal court to violating Ramirez’s civil rights and testified for the prosecution in exchange for the county dropping charges against him.

On the night of July 12, 2008, witnesses reported that six white, male teens approached Ramirez, who was walking with a girl, and yelled racial slurs and threats at him. Then he was knocked to the ground, hit and kicked.

At the beginning of the encounter, Ramirez called his friends, Arielle and Victor Garcia, for help on his cell phone. When they arrived, they found Ramirez on the ground. The teen boys were walking away, but returned and started to hit him again. Victor said he tried to stop them but was unsuccessful. One teen hit Ramirez with a metal object (Donchak) and another kicked him in the head (Piekarsky). Ramirez went into convulsions.

According to reports, Arielle screamed for help and retired Philadelphia police officer, Eileen Burke, came out of her nearby house and called 911. She reported that she heard the ethnic slurs and threats. She later said the police investigation was flawed. Her car was pelted with eggs.

Ramirez, 25, came to Shenandoah from Guanajuato, Mexico six years ago. He found steady work at a factory and also picked fruit during the season. He met and lived with his fiancée, Crystal Dillman, a Shenandoah native, and their two children. “Luis came here for a better life. He was a good father and a hard worker”, Dillman said.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund has called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate and intervene. Hate crimes against Latinos increased nearly 35 percent between 2003 and 2006, according to the FBI.

“It is time for the Department of Justice to step in and bring justice to the Ramirez family and send a strong message that violence targeting immigrants will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said MALDEF Interim President Henry Solano.