In Durham County, armed robbery of Hispanics is chiefly a black-on-Hispanic crime
Dan E. Way:
The angry punch to his face didn't have a lasting effect on Eliseo Hernandez.
The lumps caused by fierce kicks to his body have long since disappeared.
But the terror of having three guns thrust against his body as he was beaten, threatened with death and robbed on Thanksgiving Day spawned lingering emotional trauma.
Hernandez's tale of terror is anything but unique in Durham. For a variety of reasons, many say, Hispanics are a lucrative, vulnerable and growing target for armed robbers.
The Hispanics also say most of the robbers are black. Of 17 Hispanics asked, all said they were either a robbery victim or knew one -- and that the assailants in every case were black.
An assistant Durham County district attorney supports their assertion, saying armed robbery of Hispanics here is chiefly a black-on-Hispanic crime.
Sleepless nights and a gnawing fear of again facing death at the point of a gun barrel are the mental barbs hooked into Hernandez's psyche, he said.
Retelling his experience is obviously painful -- his head hung low, mostly avoiding eye contact, his voice is an odd mixture of anger and shame.
But the immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico, believes his life-threatening experience is little more than a statistic to police.
And in Durham, such statistics illustrate grave vulnerability -- nearly half of all robbery victims are Hispanic, although Hispanics represent only about 9 percent of the city's population, according to the 2000 census.
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