Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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Cultural barrier stymies homicide case

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Albany/HV: Cultural barrier stymies homicide case
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Police are facing some barriers in the investigation into the beating death of a man in the Collar City. Our Lori Chung has more on why police are urging witnesses to put their fears aside and come forward.

TROY, N.Y. -- Investigators say Santos Bermudez, 40, was bludgeoned to death on Fourth Street near the Poestenkill Creek in South Troy. Though witnesses have told police that the victim got into an argument that turned physical, more information has been hard to come by.

"There's quite a few challenges in this case," said Capt. John Cooney. "It's become fairly obvious that we're dealing with a segment of our population which, as a rule, are undocumented aliens."

Police say that's made witnesses reluctant to come forward for fear of being reported to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Troy police say Bermudez was also an illegal immigrant. Their priority now is solving his murder.

"We're not looking to give immigration any extra customers, so to speak. We're looking to get information, that's our goal," said Cooney.

But sowing the seeds of trust between the growing Latino community in Troy and police may not be that easy.

"It's very difficult for someone, even someone who is a victim to look at it that way because they know someone who has been visited by ICE, someone who's been taken away, someone who's children are now in foster care because the parents have been deported," said Monica Arias Miranda who heads the Capital Region based Hispanic Coalition New York and works as a community liaison for the FBI.

She says the hesitance is a common in communities around the country with no easy solution but for leaders to build relationships within those communities.

"That will require someone to help the police, but if they're afraid, if people are scared to come forth, that's not going to happen," said Arias Miranda.

Another barrier here: the language. Police say most everyone involved in this homicide speaks Spanish. Officials say there are two officers on the force that speak the language and are doing their best to crack this case.

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