PATCHOGUE, N.Y. - The seven high school students accused of killing a man just because he looked Hispanic faced a judge today. The heinous crime created shock waves across the state. Long Island reporter Rob Hoell was in Patchogue where it happened and where a top lawmaker is being blamed for fanning the flames of hate.
In handcuffs and in chains, 17-year-old Jeffrey Conroy lead six of his peers from jail to court. All would later be charged in connection with the brutal stabbing death of Marcello Lucero.
Spray paint marks the trail of blood left by Lucero after he was stabbed in the chest and tried to get away.
The dry cleaner, who moved here from Ecuador 16 years ago, was on his way to watch a movie when he collapsed outside of a friends house.
His grieving brother is heartbroken and outraged.
"Everything is getting worse," said Joselo Lucero. "A lot of people don't have nothing to do so it happens like that."
Immigrant rights advocate Rev. Allan Ramirez blasted County Executive Steve Levy who has pushed for laws banning the hiring of day laborers on county jobs.
"Steve Levy, the county executive along with these seven young teens, has blood in his hands," said Rev. Ramirez. "He created the atmosphere in which hatred and racism is predominant in this county."
In a statement, Levy fires back:
"The beating, stabbing and killing of Marcello Lucero wasn't a question of any county policy or legislation; it was a question of bad people doing horrific things. Despite this high profile, horrendous crime, the facts are that hate crimes in Suffolk County have gone down."
Police say the number of hate crimes in the county have gone down, but some fear those numbers are skewed because victims are afraid to report crimes because of their legal status.
In addition, police believe these seven teens are responsible for other hate crimes.
"If there's another victim we ask that they come forward," Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said.
All the teens involved were charged with gang assault. Jeffery Conroy was also charged with manslaughter, his family refused to speak with reporters.
Ashley Hartford tried to defend her 17-year-old brother Anthony Hartford.
"Is he a racist?" Ashely said. "No he's not--he is an hispanic himself."
One of the teenagers arrested, 16-year-old Christopher Overton, pleaded guilty to a botched armed burglary last year that claimed the life of an East Patchogue dad. He was to be sentenced this week for that crime.