Marcello Lucero, 37 Year Old Ecuadorean Man, Victim of Hate Crime in Long Island, NY

Although it may seem as though we have made significant strides in this country with regards to race relations, the murder of Marcello Lucero serves as a stark reminder of how far we have yet to go.

Lucero, a 37 year old man of Ecuadorean descent was just walking down the street with a friend in Patchogue, LI late Saturday night when a group of seven teenage thugs attacked them without provocation.

According to police reports and the friends eyewitness testimony, seven white youth jumped out of a car and surrounded Lucero. After a brief exchange, 17 year old Jeffrey Conroy stabbed Lucero in the chest, killing him.

Lucero's friend escaped the attack unscathed and immediately called police who quickly rounded up the seven suspects. The criminals told police they were searching for Hispanic victims to fight before the encounter, said Detective Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick. "They targeted them because they believed that they were of Hispanic heritage. They were actively seeking out victims last night, and unfortunately these two individuals happened to encounter this group," Fitzpatrick told the NY Daily News.

The families of the suspects are baffled as to the motivation behind the attacks. Ashley Hartford, the twin sister of Anthony, one of the teens charged in the attacks said they have a Hispanic grandmother, adding "He's not that kind of person. I know all these kids. I grew up with them. They're good kids - all involved in sports, go to school."

Convoy was charged with manslaughter as a Hate Crime and gang assault. The other six members of the crew were charged with gang assault as well.

Fearful of what could await them in prison, attorneys for Conroy and the other teens asked that they be placed in protective custody. Judge Toni Bean denied that request saying, "The mere age of the individual does not warrant they be put in protective custody."

All seven teenagers have entered not guilty pleas. Assistant District Attorney Nancy Clifford insisted, "This was a well-thought out crime, specifically targeting Hispanic males," she continued, "Like a lynch mob, the defendant (Conroy) and his friends got out of their car and surrounded Mr. Lucero."

"This heinous crime that led to the death of an individual because of his race will not be tolerated," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. "The suspects will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."