Man shot by ICE files federal lawsuit

BENSONHURST — Erick Diaz-Cruz is taking his case to court.

Diaz-Cruz, the Mexican man who was shot in the face by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer outside his mother’s home earlier this month has filed a lawsuit in federal court charging the officer with violating his civil rights.

“This is not just an attack against me, but also an attack against the entire Latino community in the United States,” Diaz-Cruz, 26, said in a statement released by his attorney, Katie Rosenfeld. “This is the right time for our community to come together to protest against and protect ourselves from ICE’s violence.”

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the federal courthouse for the Eastern District of New York, contains shocking details of the Feb. 6 shooting that left Diaz-Cruz with serious injuries.

Diaz-Cruz, who was unarmed, was shot while ICE agents attempted to serve a deportation notice on Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who is the boyfriend of Diaz-Cruz’s mother, Carmen Cruz.

The incident took place outside Carmen Cruz’s home on West 12th Street.

According to the lawsuit, Diaz-Cruz was awakened by sounds coming from the street that morning and left the house to see two men in plain clothes confronting Avendano-Hernandez.

The lawsuit charges that an ICE agent pulled out a gun and aimed it at Diaz-Cruz.  Diaz-Cruz covered his face with one hand as the ICE agent fired at him, according to the lawsuit.

The bullet pierced Mr. Diaz Cruz’s hand and entered the left side of his face, fracturing multiple bones in his face and hand, and lodging in his neck.

Diaz-Cruz collapsed to the sidewalk, bleeding profusely from his face and hand. He was rushed to Maimonides Medical Center and has since undergone two operations. He was released from the hospital, but faces a long road to recovery, according to his attorney.  He will likely live with a bullet in his neck for the rest of his life, according to the lawsuit.

Two weeks after the shooting, Diaz-Cruz is still unable to move his left hand and arm. He also has a loss of vision in his left eye.

Community leaders in the Gravesend-Bensonhurst area have started a fundraising drive to help him pay his medical bills.

“A young, hard-working and law-abiding man was gunned down on the streets of Brooklyn in broad daylight in front of his family, shot in the face at point blank range, by an agent of the United States government. Erick posed no threat to anyone, at any time. Erick’s face is shattered, and he and his family are traumatized,” said Rosenfeld, an attorney at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady.

Diaz-Cruz, who lives with his girlfriend in Martinez de la Torre, Veracruz, in Mexico, works as an assistant to the town mayor and is responsible for keeping records of municipal contracts. He holds a bachelor’s degree in International Commerce.

He was in the U.S. legally, having obtained a tourist visa, officials said.

Avendano-Hernandez is in the U.S. illegally, according to ICE. He is now in ICE custody awaiting deportation proceedings.

ICE officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

Rachel Yong Yow, public affairs officer for ICE’s New York office, sent the Home Reporter a statement following the Feb. 6 shooting, charging that ICE agents were “physically attacked while attempting to arrest Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez, a twice-removed illegal alien from Mexico with a 2011 assault conviction in New York City.”

The description of Avendano-Hernandez as a “twice-removed illegal alien” refers to the fact that he had been removed from the U.S. by ICE and taken back to his native Mexico twice in the past.

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