Activists voiced their outrage Thursday in response to a gruesome killing in Puerto Rico that they say should be treated as a hate crime. NY1's Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, who was gay, was found dead last Friday in Puerto Rico.
The 19-year-old was decapitated, dismembered and burned then left on the side of a road.
"This is a tragedy of such enormous proportion, this is such a heinous crime," said activist Maritza Stanchich.
Concerned members of the Latino community gathered in a show of solidarity Thursday outside the offices of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Office. Among them, Latino pastors who urged people to remember the 10 commandments, specifically "thou shalt not kill."
"There were no parentheses when that commandment was made. It didn't say you could kill if a person was gay, Puerto Rican, a woman, drug addict and so forth. It only said 'thou shalt not kill,'" said activist David Galarza.
Juan Martinez Matos, 26, was arrested late Monday in connection with the slaying. Prosecutors say he tried to pick up Lopez Mercado, thinking he was a woman, and went into a rage when he found out he was not.
Matos is charged with first degree murder. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether the killing will be treated as a hate crime.
Clergy members in New York say they're disappointed the Puerto Rican government hasn't spoken out against the attack.
"We haven't yet heard one politician or religious leader condemn the brutal killing of this young man and it's been a week since his body was discovered," said Reverend Dr. Samuel Cruz of the Union Theological Seminary.
Vigils for Mercado are planned around the country this weekend, including one Sunday evening by the piers near Christopher Street.