Immigrant's Murder Sheds Light on Pa. Town

A small Pennsylvania town is at the center of a hate crimes case. It began with the beating death of a Mexican immigrant last year. Now, two teenagers convicted in the attack are facing additional, federal charge. And three police officers have been indicted for allegedly orchestrating a cover-up, as CBS News chief national correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

As 25-year-old Luis Ramirez lay fighting for his life about 18 months ago, racial tensions in blue-collar Shenandoah, Pa. - population 5,000 - came to light. For many, an emerging Mexican immigrant population was not welcome.

After Ramirez died, former high school athletes Brandon Piekarski and Derrick Donchak were convicted of simple assault, but acquitted of more serious charges.

The victim's fiancée - and mother of his two children - Crystal Dillman says the crime exposed an open secret.

"They don't embrace other cultures. And if you are Hispanic in any way they consider you a Mexican. It doesn't matter if you're from Mexico or not, you can be from Puerto Rico and they will call you a dirty Mexican."

Federal prosecutors now say the killing was an act of intimidation and was racially motivated. Ramirez's brutal death came after a late night street fight where racial slurs were heard. After the fight, the teens were stopped by police.

In a small town where connections run close, federal prosecutors say the police officers and the chief helped the assailants by "filing false police reports" that "intentionally omitted information about the true nature of the assault," and even advised the defendants to dispose of evidence. One officer is alleged to have told a boy's mother to "get their stories straight."

"The chief is arrogant," said former Shenandoah Mayor Thomas O'Neil. "They feel that they are a power unto themselves and they're not accountable to anyone."

The county's Hispanic population has grown more than 80 percent since 2000. Immigrants and anti-hate groups describe an atmosphere of resentment and hostility.

As for the teenagers - if convicted of the federal hate crimes charges, they could face a maximum penalty of life in prison. The police chief has been ordered held without bail because he's considered a threat to witnesses in this case.

Shenandoah only had seven police officers. With half the department under indictment, the state police will patrol the streets.

Read more about hate crimes and protecting immigrants rights at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Byron Pitts

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