Filipino Man Killed in NYC; Was It a Hate Crime?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on June 27, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Filipino man was killed after being sucker-punched in NYC on Saturday, leaving some to wonder whether the incident was a hate crime.

The punch knocked Roberto Martires, 56, to the pavement; he succumbed to his injuries Tuesday. Friends say Martires' attacker confronted him outside a Filipino eatery and asked him, "Are you Filipino?" When Martires said he was, "the suspect clocked him," friends told the New York Daily News.

Police, however, attributed the fatal punch to "revelry after the World Cup," and are not investigating the incident as a hate crime. Why not?

NYPD: Not a Hate Crime

In New York, if a person is the target of a crime based on the perpetrator's belief surrounding a victim's race, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, and/or sexual orientation. It doesn't matter whether the victim is actually the race or sexual orientation that is perceived, a hate crime is based on the intent of the perpetrator.

While New York has had particular issues with anti-gay hate crimes in the past year or so, the circumstances surrounding Martires' death are still unclear, police say. The suspect remains at large.

The victim's friends certainly believe the attack was based on Martires' perceived identity as a Filipino, which, if true, would likely constitute a hate crime. However, a police source told the Daily News there was "no indication" that the "Are you Filipino?" question was actually uttered by the attacker, despite what Martires' friends are telling reporters.

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Still Likely a Major Felony

Since police have yet to catch Martires' attacker, it is a bit premature to guess at whether prosecutors will charge the perpetrator with a hate crime. Even if the allegations of racially motivated violence are false, Martires' assailant will likely be facing major felony charges.

Despite the fact that Martires didn't die at the scene of his attack, his attacker may likely be slapped with an involuntary manslaughter charge; if convicted, he could be facing up to 20 years in prison. At the very least, the suspect will likely be charged with assault.

But both the NYPD and Martires' friends and loved ones will have to wait until his assailant is caught before more details may emerge.

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