Police canvass area as beating death raises concerns over hate crimes

After a man was beaten to death early Saturday morning in what police call a hate crime— the latest in a string of attacks against Hispanics in the area — officers and neighborhood volunteers walked door-to-door to promote a dialogue with police and the Spanish-speaking community.

Saturday night, police had made an arrest in the overnight killing in the 200 block of N. Kenwood Ave. Officers were called at about 2:15 a.m. for an assault and found a 51-year-old man suffering from severe head and facial trauma after he was beaten with a piece of wood. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Jermaine Holley, 19, of the 3600 block of Erdman Ave. was charged with first-degree murder after police said he confessed, and that the motive was not robbery, as witnesses had earlier told police. Instead, police classified the homicide as a hate crime because Holley indicated in his statement to police that he "hated Hispanics," said department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Authorities are concerned by the series of assaults, which includes a fatal shooting last weekend. Guglielmi said Holley does not appear to be linked with the other incidents. He said officers are not looking for direct links between the crimes so much as reasons why Hispanics might have been targeted.

Criminals might believe some Hispanics are easy targets because of possible language barriers or a reluctance to call the police, Guglielmi said. Residents who are concerned about their immigration status should not be afraid to call the police, Guglielmi said.

"Our message to the community is to call us. This is not an immigration issue. It's just a public safety concern. There's a lot of misinformation in the community that if people call us, immigration will become involved," he said.

He said the department's deputy commissioner has authorized 24-hour foot patrols of the Southeastern District and said the mayor's office is helping officers work past language barriers in the Hispanic community.

Guglielmi said the department is also trying to communicate to residents through Hispanic media outlets.

Saturday evening, Spanish-speaking officers and volunteer community members walked door-to-door to inform residents of the recent violence and make them aware that officers won't ask about immigration status and that Spanish-speaking officers are available for translation.

Officer Javier Conde, from Puerto Rico, came to work in Baltimore and is assigned to the central district. He walked with officer Henry Yambo in the northeast district Saturday, along with Kevin Bernhard, president of the Highlandtown Community Association and Heather Hurley, president of the Patterson Park Neighborhood Association to canvass several blocks around North Lindwood Avenue, near Patterson Park. They knocked on doors and passed out fliers.

Melbin Cruz, 22, who lives on North Luzerne Avenue, was passing by when the officers stopped to speak with him. The officers told him to call 911 with any problems and that there were Spanish-speaking officers available.

Cruz told Conde in Spanish that "he feels more confident to call police," Conde translated. Cruz also told the officer that "he's been worried, especially at night, but before, he was feeling free," without worries, Conde said.

Farther down the street, Javier Alameda, 34, stood in the doorway to his brick rowhouse with his brother as Conde spoke to him.

"Gracias," Alameda said as he nodded to the officer after he finished speaking. Alameda speaks English fluently, but said he lives with four other family members who do not speak English as well and he must often translate, although he admits that "sometimes you get a little tongue-tied."

He said he had heard of the attack from a neighbor. "I was shocked. I couldn't believe that," he said. But said that he was already taking precautions to stay in at night because he was assaulted last month after leaving the Latin Palace Club on Broadway.

"My head was like this," he said, pulling his hand about 6 inches from his forehead. After the attack, he said "you do feel like you don't want to go home," saying the recent violence in his neighborhood has made him afraid.

Guglielmi said Holley had family in the 400 block of Kenwood and was apprehended using information from the community.

Holley has faced several prior drug-related charges, as well as an armed robbery and related assault charges from a 2007 incident, electronic court records indicate.

Police have yet to release the victim's name pending family notification.



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