GRAVESEND – A Mexican immigrant who was shot in the face by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents during a raid at his family’s home is getting some help paying his costly medical bills.
Community leaders in the Gravesend-Bensonhurst area have joined forces with neighbors to mount a fundraising campaign for Erick Diaz-Cruz, a 26-year-old immigrant from Mexico who is now out of the hospital and recuperating at his mother Carmen Cruz’s home in Gravesend.
Diaz-Cruz, who underwent two surgeries during his stay at Maimonides Medical Center following the Feb. 6 shooting, still faces thousands of dollars in medical bills. Diaz-Cruz was in the U.S. under a tourist visa to visit his mother, officials said.
A fundraising drive called “Justice for Erick Diaz-Cruz” has been launched on Facebook with a goal of raising $30,000. To date, more than $6,000 has been raised.
Diaz-Cruz, who was reportedly unarmed, was shot when he tried to help Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez, his mother’s boyfriend, as ICE agents attempted to serve a deportation notice to Avendano-Hernandez.
Diaz-Cruz allegedly got into a scuffle with the ICE agents as they attempted to take Avendano-Hernandez, 33, into custody. One of the agents shot Diaz-Cruz in the face, according to law enforcement officials.
Avendano-Hernandez is in the U.S. illegally, according to ICE. He is now in ICE custody awaiting deportation proceedings.
Steven Patzer, a Bensonhurst-Gravesend civic leader, was among the community activists and elected officials who rushed to Maimonides Medical on the day of the shooting to comfort the Diaz-Cruz family.
Patzer is helping to promote the Facebook fundraising drive.
“No one’s life should be in danger from trying to protect someone from being deported,” Patzer told the Home Reporter in an email. “My own father was an immigrant from Poland that came here due to a difficult economy in his own country. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for someone to come to the door trying to take him away from me.”
Immigration advocates joined neighbors of Diaz-Cruz at a candlelight vigil outside the victim’s West 12th Street home on Saturday.
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a Democrat representing several neighborhoods in Southwest Brooklyn, including Gravesend, attended the vigil.
“This family has gone through a terrible trauma that no one should have to go through. A young man who was here visiting legally was shot in the face. This is wrong, as wrong as banning Muslims from our country or locking children in cages, and it is necessary to speak up and speak out on behalf of our immigrant communities,” Gounardes told the Home Reporter.
Carmen Cruz, who attended the candlelight vigil, told THE CITY that her son’s shooting was heartbreaking for her family. “It was so painful. There are no words. I want justice for my son and for my partner to be free,” said Cruz, according to THE CITY.
Anthony Beckford, president of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn, called the shooting an outrage.
“Erick was unarmed and was not a threat. He was shot while his hands were raised. There must be justice. When armed thugs such as ICE agents come into our communities and kidnap community members from their community and families and attempt to commit murder, there must be justice. Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez must be freed and reunited with his family immediately and Erick must have justice,” Beckford said.
Rachel Yong Yow, public affairs officer for ICE’s New York office, sent the Home Reporter a statement from ICE, 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.
“The New York Police Department arrested Avendano-Hernandez Feb. 3 for possession of a forged instrument, a felony criminal charge. ICE attempted to lodge an immigration detainer after his most recent arrest. However the subject was released from local custody before ICE could lodge a detainer. This forced ICE officers to locate him on the streets of New York rather than in the safe confines of a jail. This incident is being investigated by the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility,” the agency’s statement read.
For more information on the fundraising effort on behalf of Diaz-Cruz, visit https://www.facebook.com/Justiceforerickdiazcruz/.