Deadly attack on NY Filipino not hate crime, police say

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

June 27, 2014

WOODSIDE, N.Y. – A makeshift shrine for deceased assault victim Roberto Martirez drew a small crowd Thursday night at the corner of 69th St. and Roosevelt Ave. in Woodside.

“Filipinos here have come together to help find who did this to Robert and get justice,” Tony Alvaira, the victim’s best friend, said.

The New York Police Department said that on June 21 at approximately 12:10 a.m., the victim was punched in the face by an unknown person in front of 6904 Roosevelt Ave.

Authorities also said the attack was unprovoked.

An updated New York police advisory said the 56-year-old Filipino limo driver was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby Elmhurst hospital.

Friends of the victim say Martirez may have walked by a group of what they described as Hispanic guys who appeared to have been drinking and watching the World Cup Series at a bar.

“Someone asked if he was Filipino. Then he said yes and someone hit him, you know, sucker punch. I could be a hate crime,” Alvaira said.

But this Filipino street vendor who was selling balut on the night of the attack says otherwise. He was just a few feet away from the victim when it happened.

“I was looking from over there and I heard a thud, something fell. When I looked, I thought some Spanish [guys] were fighting. But it was actually Robert,” balut vendor Efren Farinas said.

Contrary to the story that has been floating around the community — that Martirez was asked if he was Filipino — Farinas confirms the NYPD’s report that that no words were exchanged between the victim and the attacker before the incident.

“It’s not true because no one asked him if he’s Filipino,” Alvaira said. “It’s hearsay. I didn’t hear the Spanish [guy] say anything.”

NYPD officer Sophia Mason told Balitang America this homicide is not being investigated as a hate crime, although this may change as the investigation is ongoing.

Authorities are looking for a Hispanic male, early to mid-twenties, with facial hair. He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans and dark colored baseball cap.

A reward of up to $2,000 is up for grabs for information that would lead to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for the attack against Martirez.

Anyone with information about the attack may call the NYPD’s crime stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.

Meantime, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs vowed justice and assistance to the Martirez family.

DFA spokesman said the New York Consulate will cooperate with authorities to help bring to justice to those responsible for the attack on Martirez.

A vigil and funeral viewing is scheduled today at the Kennedy Roth Funeral Home in Woodside.

You can contact Don Tagala at for more information.

One Comment

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  • JRB
    29 June 2014 at 11:30 am - Reply

    Hey people before you all make a remark about hate crime? Please find out the truth first? Shame when you all make a remark and find out it wasn’t a hate crime. Let NYPD do they job first?