2009-03-20 / Top Stories

Protestors Call For Hate Crime Charge In Cop Case

By Howard Schwach

Police Officer Juan Nunez at an earlier community meeting at the 101 Precinct. Nunez has been charged with assault in a Nassau County beating of a man who was hanging out in front of a relative's bodega. Police Officer Juan Nunez at an earlier community meeting at the 101 Precinct. Nunez has been charged with assault in a Nassau County beating of a man who was hanging out in front of a relative's bodega. Protestors have joined the attorney for a Roosevelt, Long Island man who was beaten by a group of Hispanic men, which included a police officer assigned to the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway, in calling for the federal government to step in and investigate whether Nassau County officials have tainted a possible hate crime case against the defendants.

The attorney, Fred Brewington of Hempstead, is critical of the police investigation of his client's beating, especially of statements by county officials that the crime, which included calling the victim the N-Word and telling him to go back to Africa, was not a hate crime according to New York State statutes.

The state law says that a person who commits a hate crime intentionally chooses his intended victim at least in part because of a perception about that person's race, national origin, ancestry, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, whether or not that perception is correct.

County police identified the 101 Precinct Police Officer as Juan Nunez, who has been assigned to the precinct for seven years.

Sources in Nassau County say the fight is not considered a hate crime because it may have been started by the black man, identified as Daryl Jackson, 52, of Roosevelt.

Jackson was allegedly hanging out in front of the Freeport bodega owned by the other three men, who are reportedly Nunez's cousins.

One of the defendants, Kevin Vargas, reportedly ordered Jackson, who eyewitnesses say was harassing customers, to move away from the store, The Midway Deli.

Jackson refused, and allegedly punched Vargas in the face.

Jose Miguel Vargas, another of the defendants, said that he and the others then intervened.

Police say, however, that the men pummeled Jackson with their fists and with a baseball bat.

Police report that Police Officer Nunez was not the person who wielded the baseball bat.

Although the men yelled racial slurs at Jackson, telling him to "go back to Africa," and calling him the N-word, police say that the case would probably not be tried as a hate crime.

In order to try Nunez under the hate crime statute, the genesis of the attack would have to be racial in nature, said one legal expert. Nassau County police say that the assault started not because Jackson is black, but because the men perceived that he was causing a problem at their place of business.

Racial activist Al Sharpton has already organized one demonstration in Freeport demanding that officials declare the attack a bias case and he stated that he would hold more until the federal government steps in.

A spokesperson for the Nassau County District Attorney's office, however, said that no decision has yet been made on how to proceed in the case.

Nunez, 32, who lives in Freeport, was released after posting a $40,000 bond after his arraignment in the Mineola courthouse.

New York City police sources say that Nunez was immediately suspended without pay and ordered to surrender his service weapon.

If convicted, Nunez could face up to seven years in prison and the loss of his New York City job.

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