Hispanic killed at African-American celebration of emancipation
A man was beaten to death after the car in which he was travelling struck and injured a child in a neighbourhood in which thousands were celebrating the emancipation of slaves.
Police moved to calm tensions between the black and Latino communities in Austin, Texas, insisting that there was no suggestion of a “hate crime” against the Hispanic victim.
The incident happened when David Morales, 41, was being driven home by a colleague through a housing estate in the city. Two blocks away, a 3,000-strong crowd was celebrating “Juneteenth” – the day in 1865 when General Gordon Granger arrived in the town of Galveston to deliver the news of the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all Texas slaves to be free. City celebrations featured a parade, a motorcycle show, music, food, and events for children.
When the car in which Mr Morales was travelling struck a two-year-old boy, a crowd gathered, many or all of them thought to be African-American. The driver, identified only as “Victor”, got out and was the first to be attacked. Mr Morales tried to shield his friend, but Victor escaped, and Mr Morales was beaten to death. No weapons were used.
“I’ve been doing this for 28 years. This is the first time I can ever recall something like this,” said Commander Harold Piatt, in charge of the Austin Police Department’s homicide division. “It’s sad for the city.” Mr Piatt insisted that the beating had nothing to do with Mr Morales’s being Hispanic.
“It’s not a hate crime,” he said. “It’s not racially motivated in any way. The assault has nothing to do with the Juneteenth celebration.” So far, Victor is the only known witness to the beating and the police in Austin have avoided confirming reports that the attackers were black.
Victor managed to drive away from the scene and was found by police later, and held for questioning for more than 24-hours. The two-year-old-child, Michael Hosea Jr, was not seriously hurt.
Hispanic and African-American leaders have joined forces to try to calm tensions between Latinos and blacks. The two minorities have previously banded together in Austin to tackle social problems and to protest against police shootings of minorities. But there is a long history of antagonism between the two ethnic groups, with blacks often worried that Latinos will take their jobs for less pay. Some employers have deliberately attempted to stir-up these fears, telling Latinos that African-Americans would fill their jobs if they were ever deported.
“There is a lot of anger in the community and a lot of emotions going on,” said Rita Gonzales, district director for the League of United Latin American Citizens. “We want people to look beyond where they are from, and colour, and work together as a community.”
Richard Franklin, president of the Black Austin Democrats, added: “We need to remove the animals from our community. Those people who don’t treat others humanely have to be removed.”
Mr Morales worked at a fast-food restaurant before taking a job last month painting houses. His sister, Margaret, said that a young boy had knocked on her door to tell her that her brother was lying on the ground outside. She found him sprawled on the pavement about 100ft from her home, battered and choking on blood. Her mother also ran to the scene after hearing her screams.
A preliminary postmortem examination listed blunt force trauma as the cause of death. Doctors said that they could not control the bleeding in Mr Morales’s brain, and that his heart kept stopping.
Mr Morales’s family described him as a sports fan who enjoyed spending time with his nieces and nephews. “I just want the people caught and brought to justice,” said Elizabeth Morales, his sister. “I want them to feel the same pain that they caused my brother.”
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