Monday, September 10, 2007
Commited a Murder against Illegal Immigrants is not a Deportation mode. It's a Xenophobic and discriminatory act. If you’re a police officer you should be protecting the community, not assaulting the community.”
Police Officer Is Charged in Death of Immigrant.
MOUNT KISCO, N.Y., Sept. 6 — A village police officer was charged on Thursday with second-degree manslaughter in the death of a homeless Guatemalan immigrant four months ago that had shaken this community of 10,000 people.
The officer, George Bubaris, also faces one count of unlawful imprisonment and two counts of official misconduct, according to an indictment unsealed in Westchester County.
Officer Bubaris, 30, was the first of three Mount Kisco officers to answer a 911 call placed by the man who died, Rene Javier Perez, from a laundry on the night of April 28.
An hour later, Mr. Perez, a 42-year-old vagrant with a history of alcoholism and a long arrest record for petty crimes, was found unconscious on the side of a dirt road a few miles away in the neighboring town of Bedford and died in a hospital a few hours later.
The county medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, saying Mr. Perez died of internal abdominal injuries.
In a news conference on Thursday, the Westchester district attorney, Janet DiFiore, refused to detail what investigators believe transpired between Officer Bubaris and Mr. Perez, other than to say that Officer Bubaris, “while on duty as a Mount Kisco police officer, restrained Rene Perez and exposed him to a risk of serious physical injury,” recklessly causing his death.
It was still unclear, for example, whether Mr. Perez got into Officer Bubaris’s patrol car after leaving the laundry. Entries from that night’s police log show that the three officers left the laundry at 10:55 p.m. after deciding that what they encountered “there was not a police matter,” according to a dispatcher’s notes.
But a lawyer for Officer Bubaris, Eddie Hayes, said in a telephone interview after the indictment was unsealed that prosecutors could not “prove that anything my client did caused” Mr. Perez’s death.
Without saying whether Officer Bubaris left Mr. Perez on the roadside, Mr. Hayes contended that the victim “was a physical mess, sleeping in the streets and an alcoholic for decades.”
Mr. Hayes added, “There’s really no sign of beating, and in any case you really don’t know whether he fell down or had a fight with someone else.”
Ms. DiFiore said no additional charges would be filed in the case, adding that she was satisfied with the grand jury’s decision to charge only Officer Bubaris in Mr. Perez’s death.
Officer Bubaris pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in White Plains, where the State Supreme Court justice, Lester B. Adler, gave him a day to post a $100,000 bond, which Mr. Hayes said his client would do.
The top charge of manslaughter in the second degree carries a maximum penalty of 5 to 15 years in state prison.
The death of Mr. Perez, who was here illegally, upset the already fragile relations in this wealthy village in northern Westchester County, where professionals and owners of rambling horse farms coexist with day laborers and struggling families. About one-quarter of residents are Hispanic, most of them immigrants from Guatemala.
The death of Mr. Perez followed at least two other suspicious and unsolved homicides of illegal immigrants in recent years. Santos Bojorguez, 33, was found strangled here in 2003, and Robert Martinez, 42, was killed the same way in 2004.
In a news conference outside the Police Department here on Thursday afternoon, Fernando Mateo, president of Hispanics Across America, a Manhattan-based advocacy group, called on the police to renew efforts to solve the earlier killings.
Mr. Mateo also said that while Mr. Perez should have been deported for racking up a string of arrests, the police overstepped their bounds.
Mr. Perez “was wrong in that he violated certain laws, but unfortunately the law was taken into the hands of a police officer, and that’s even worse,” Mr. Mateo said. “Murder is not deportation. You don’t murder someone to get rid of them. If you’re a police officer you should be protecting the community, not assaulting the community.”
Some residents said the manslaughter charge against Officer Bubaris brought a sense of relief.
“I’m pleased that they didn’t just sweep it under the rug,” said Shantae Artis, a 26-year-old office assistant and mother who was born and raised here. “You don’t want to think that you’re not safe in your own town.”
Others who work with immigrants tried to put the crime in perspective, crediting the police with reaching out after the killing.
“The general impression of the immigrant community that comes to our center is that the police in general have treated people fairly over time,” said Carola Otero Bracco, executive director of Neighbors Link, a local nonprofit social service agency for Hispanic immigrants. “There’s a lot of hope that we will be able to move forward and make things better at some point.”
At the news conference at the district attorney’s office in White Plains, the chief of the Mount Kisco police, Steven Anderson, said he planned “to make every effort to restore the public’s trust” in the department.