Slain teen’s brother vows to see justice done
By Carlos Avila, The Trentonian
Saturday’s killing of 18-year old Julio Cesar Cruz in Trenton’s Chambersburg section has garnered national attention as the details of the incident continue to emerge.
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 beating him.
It is not known if the assailants intended to rob Cruz or inflict injury. Cruz lost conscience and hit his head on the concrete porch of his home.
A roommate of Cruz says that he ran after one of the assailants and was able to catch up with him. “When I caught up to him I hit him with a plastic shovel I took with me. After hitting him in the back with the shovel he turned around and raised his arms in surrender, but as I looked back to see if Cesar was getting up the kid just took off,” the roommate, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said in Spanish.
The roommate returned to the scene of the accident to find Cruz unconscious and without signs of life. Cruz was declared dead upon arrival at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton.
As the week began several community leaders and news agencies descended upon the corner of South Clinton Avenue and Rusling Street in Trenton to learn more about the incident and offer help.
Cruz’s older brother traveled over night from Tennessee to put his younger brother to rest.
“I am devastated by the death of my brother,” said Jose Antonio Cruz. “We would talk every day by phone. The last time we talked, he was so excited because he got a job at a car wash,” said the brother, choking back his tears.
“I want justice for my brother and I will not leave Trenton until we get justice,” he added.
Residents of Chambersburg continue to be fearful as a result of the increase in targeted assaults against Latino immigrants, who seem to be perceived as vulnerable.
“It is very dangerous in this city. I told Julio Cesar to be careful when going out because people are out looking to rob us,’ said a neighbor Wilmer Lopez. “The truth is … these kids are hurting us and they are hurting themselves. I also got robbed,” he added as he pointed to a scar on his forehead.
Another roommate who picked up Cruz’s body to look for signs of life says she is traumatized by the experience.
“I am so sad and can’t stop thinking about it. This was a young man full of life who came to this country with dreams to work and help his family. When I knelt down on the floor I took his head in my arms and I realized he was dead. I looked for a pulse and did not feel anything,” said Magnolia Lopez who helped Cruz get settled when he arrived to the United States from Guatemala.
Latino community activists noted that they are planning to organize a rally in front of city hall.
“Stop attacking our community — enough is enough. Please do not ignore our Latino community,” said Roberto Hernández, executive director of El Centro.
The Trenton Police Department had not additional information on Monday.
Anyone who wants to help the victim’s family, can call to Guatemalan Civic Association’s president Elemer Sandoval, (609) 532-9325.
Anyone with information on the attack is asked to call the Mercer County Homicide Task Force (609) 989-6406, or use the Trenton police confidential tip line at (609) 989-3663.