Family, neighbors alarmed by beating death of South Ward teen
By Carlos Avila, The Trentonian
Julio Cesar Cruz, a resident of Trenton’s South Ward was beaten to death Saturday evening. According to witnesses, the 18-year old native of San Marcos, Guatemala, suffered traumatizing blows to his body and head which caused him to lose consciousness and fall to the ground banging his head on the concrete front porch of his Rusling Street home.
According to his roommates, at around 6:30 p.m., Cruz went to a bakery on Whittaker Avenue to buy his take-out dinner. Twenty minutes later as he approached his house on the way back, two African-American males with hoodies grabbed him and started pounding him.
“He was about to come into the house when he yelled and I saw through the window two guys grabbing him from his clothes and started hitting him in the face and shoving him around,” said an eye witness who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“It seemed like he lost consciousness, because after a couple punches he stopped defending himself and just fell to the ground and he hit his head on the front steps,” said the witness speaking in Spanish.
Three men who saw the incident ran after the assailants as they ran in opposing directions. They were able to hit one with a shovel but the suspect got away. Cruz’ friends gave up the pursuit thinking that Cruz only suffered minor injuries and returned to the house to help him get to the hospital.
“When we got back to the house we tried to stand Julio Cesar up but his head was wobbling in every direction,” said one of his roommates.
Cruz was transported to St. Francis Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries and was declared dead around 9 p.m.
The young Cruz arrived to the United States only 45 days ago looking for work and opportunity in Trenton. According to his roommates he worked through staffing agencies and usually started his day as early as 5 a.m. As a result of the recent heavy snow, Cruz was finding it difficult to find stable work.
His roommates said that Cruz did not have his cell phone on him or much money and they do not think the assailants were able to take any property from him.
After word spread around Trenton’s Guatemalan community that one of their own had been killed, activists met with the friends close to the victim to make funeral arrangements and address the situation.
“We will help with the funeral and sending his body to his homeland, but we want to ask the police for justice, hopefully this death does not go unpunished,” Agustín Chavez a member of a civic association in Trenton said.
“My brother was a good man he does not like to fight with anyone; I don’t know why they killed him,” said Jose Antonio Cruz, via phone from Tennessee.
Neighbors in the area of Rusling Street and South Clinton Avenue expressed frustration about the ongoing attacks targeted against Latinos and called on authorities to solve cases and increase police presence in their neighborhoods.