Hakim Scott, 25, and Keith Phoenix, 28, were indicted on charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime in the beating death of Jose Sucuzhañay, and first-degree assault as a hate crime in the attack on his brother, Romel. The two are accused of killing Sucuzhañay while shouting slurs about his ethnicity and sexuality. Prosecutors said Tuesday that they are also pursuing charges for additional crimes that could send them to prison for up to 78 years if convicted.
Authorities say that Scott and Phoenix attacked Ecuadorean brothers Jose and Romel Sucuzhañay as they were walking arm-in-arm from a party in a Bushwick area bar on the evening of December 7th. The defendants were also leaving a party and shouted out epithets out of the window of their SUV as they drove by the brothers. The two groups exchanged words and eventually Scott got out of the care and hit Romel with a beer bottle. Romel was able to escape the assault but Phoenix brutally beat Jose with an aluminum baseball bat. He died a few days later.
Phoenix is now declaring that he acted in self defense because it appeared that Jose Sucuzhañay was reaching for a gun. But District Attorney Charles Hynes refuted those claims at a recent press conference.
Jose Arrufat, an attorney for the Sucuzhañay family, told the NY Daily News, "The family has suffered tremendously. It was a brutal murder," and added that they were thankful for the thorough investigation and indictment.
The family is now coming together to make sure that Jose's children, 5-year-old Joanna, who has Down Syndrome, and 10-year-old Brian, get the proper care they need.