Deadly attack on Fil-Am not a hate crime

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jun 28 2014 11:40 AM | Updated as of Jun 30 2014 04:24 AM

WOODSIDE, New York - A makeshift shrine for deceased assault victim Roberto Martinez drew a small crowd at the corner of 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside on Thursday night.

"Magsama-sama at magkaisa ang mga Pilipino rito para matulungan na mahanap ang gumawa nito kay Robert, mabigyan siya ng hustisya," said the victim's bestfriend, Tony Alvaira.

The New York Police Deputy Commissioner, Public Information or DCPI said that on June 21st at approximately 12:10 a.m., the victim was punched in the face by an unknown person in front of 69-04 Roosevelt Avenue.

Authorities also said the attack was unprovoked.

An updated New York Police advisory said the 56-year-old Filipino limo driver was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby Elmhurst Hospital.

Friends of the victim said Martirez may have walked by a group of what they described as Hispanic guys who appeared to have been drinking and watching the World Cup series at a bar.

"May nagtanong sa kanya, "Are you Filipino?" and then he said "Yes" and someone hit him really, you know sucker punch," said Alvaira.

But a Filipino street vendor who was selling balut on the night of the attack said otherwise. He was just a few feet away from the victim when it happened.

"Noong ako'y nakatingin sa banda run sa kabila, meron akong narining na isang kalabog. Nung tumingin ako, kala ko may nag-aaway na Spanish, yun pala si Robert na," said Efren Farinas.

Contrary to the story that has been floating around the community, Farinas confirms the NYPD's report that that no words were exchanged between the victim and the attacker before the incident.

"Hindi yata totoo yun dahil sa totoo, wala naman sinabi yung kasama niya na 'Are you Filipino?' Parang hearsay-hearsay lang dito, pero ang totoo nun, walang sinabi yung Spanish. Wala akong narinig," said Farinas.

NYPD officer Sophia Mason told ABS-CBN North America that this homicide is not being investigated as a hate crime, although this may change as the investigation is ongoing.

Authorities are looking for a male Hispanic, early to mid-20s with facial hair last seen wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans and dark colored baseball cap.

A reward of up to $2000 is up for grabs for information that would lead to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for the attack against Martirez.

Anyone with information about the attack may call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers hotline at 800-577-tips.

Meantime, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs vowed justice and assistance to the Martirez family.

The DFA said the New York Consulate will cooperate with authorities to help bring to justice those responsible for the attack on Martirez.