MALDEF Condemns Anti-Immigrant Murders in Florida

February 27, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – In the early hours of February 26, Dannie Baker, a 60-year-old Florida resident, left his townhouse armed with a rifle, walked across the complex to a neighboring unit, and opened fire on a quiet gathering of young, unsuspecting Latino residents in Miramar Beach. When the rampage ceased, two individuals were found dead, and three others critically injured. All five victims were Chilean students participating in a foreign exchange program.

While details about the suspect’s motives are few, news reports are pointing to previous anti-immigrant statements made by Baker. One neighbor recalls an incident when Baker “[came] up to me one time and asked me if I was ready for the revolution to begin and if I had any immigrants in my house to get them out.” Baker often volunteered for political campaigns, but stopped after local Republicans started receiving “radical” and “inappropriate” emails from him. Allegedly, the e-mails were so disturbing that volunteers reported them to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.

These murders trail an alarming rise of hate crimes committed against Latinos in recent years. Last summer, Luis Ramirez was fatally beaten in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania by four youths who yelled racial epithets before and after the beating. A few months later, Marcelo Lucero was beaten to death in Long Island, New York and Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhañay, a 31 year-old Brooklyn, New York resident of Ecuadorian descent, died after being beaten with a baseball bat by attackers shouting anti-Latino and anti-gay epithets.

MALDEF Southeastern Regional Counsel Elise Shore stated, “While we have no way of knowing Mr. Baker’s motives, his previous comments resemble the type of language we see on anti-immigrant forums online, where misinformation about immigrants and violent rhetoric thrive. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported a drastic rise in the number of hate groups, and we know that the toxicity of anti-immigrant hate knows no boundaries -- it seeps into our schools and our local communities, as this recent incident demonstrates.”

MALDEF calls on the local police department to pursue hate crime charges if investigations reveal that the murders were motivated by hate. MALDEF is outraged by this senseless loss of innocent life and will continue to monitor the progress of the investigation until justice is served. We urge the police department to restore peace and bring justice to the community.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund