Community bids farewell to slain teen

Leonardo Arias, a chaplain from the Assemblies of God Church, offers his respects at Julio Cesar Cruz funeral on Saturday in Trenton. Trentonian Photo/CARLOS AVILA

— On an unusually warm Saturday evening, Julio Cesar Cruz was laid to rest at Chiaccho Funeral Home in Trenton’s South Ward as hundreds of community members came to say farewell to the slain teen.

Last week Cruz, 19, was beaten to death in front of his Rusling Street home while returning from a nearby deli where he went to buy groceries. Cruz, came to the United States from Guatemala less than three months ago seeking the American Dream. At around 9 p.m. on Feb. 15, Cruz was pronounced dead upon arrival to St. Francis Medical Center.

Cruz’s death was felt across the city and galvanized the local Latino community. On Wednesday, more than 350 people attended a peace rally asking for justice to be done in Cruz’s case and an end to violence in the city.

“I want justice for my brother, all he did was go get some food and get ready for his first day of work, he did not deserve this,” said the victim’s brother Jose Antonio Cruz.

According to Antonio Cruz, who came from Tennessee after being notified of his brother’s death, Julio Cesar Cruz was excited to have a found a job at a nearby car wash.

“Our parents back home need financial help and between my brother and I, we were going to help send money back home to Guatemala,” added Cruz.

The funeral for Cruz carried the energy from the rally earlier in the week as community members gathered for the funeral.

“I never met him, but he is a fellow Guatemalan who suffered a similar fate that many of us almost have. I have also been attacked,” said David Godoy from Assemblies of God Church who sang at the funeral home and came to give his respects to Cruz’s family.

“We are hurting as a community, we needs things to change,” said Godoy.

Cruz’s death has brought many victims in the Latino community together and given them an opportunity to speak up against the type of violence they feel has been targeted against Latino immigrants recently