Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Arrest made in connection with the beating death of Latino

Bethesda man faces death penalty, two more suspects are sought

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This story was corrected on April 2, 2008, from its print version.

A man who told police he was ‘‘targeting Hispanics” in a burglary at a Gaithersburg apartment last month has been arrested in the February beating death of a 42-year-old Latino that occurred outside the same complex.

Detric Lewarren Thompson, 28, of 6 Carver Lane, was charged Friday with first-degree murder and first-degree assault. He is being held on no bond at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

Shortly before 9 p.m. on Feb. 17, Aureliano Evelio Miranda-Fuentes died after he and a Latino friend were robbed and attacked by three men wielding a baseball bat and iron pipes behind their apartment complex on Route 355, across from Gaithersburg High School. The friend managed to escape and helped police draft a composite of one of the suspects, later determined to be Thompson.

In the course of a burglary at the same apartment complex on March 8, Thompson was apprehended by police and ‘‘admitted to the burglary, and was very specific about why he broke into the apartment. He stated he was targeting Hispanics,” according to police charging documents.

The man who survived the February attack was able to identify Thompson from a photo as one of the men who beat him and Miranda-Fuentes, according to charging documents. Thompson had been living with his parents in Bethesda.

Latino activists were particularly upset by Miranda-Fuentes’ death, seeing it as another in what they say is a growing trend of assaults and ‘‘pack robberies” targeting Latinos.

Thompson’s arrest gives substance to those fears, said Grace Rivera-Oven, Latino advocate and host of Montgomery Cable’s weekly Spanish-language news show.

‘‘The arrest of this individual just confirms the fears that the community was having and that we have been voicing ... for months,” she said. ‘‘It confirms that it’s happening. It’s not a myth anymore.”

Rivera-Oven and Henry Montes, co-chairman of the county executive’s Latin American Advisory Committee, have been working with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office to help raise awareness about their concern that Latinos are being targeted because criminals know many in that community are reluctant to contact police.

‘‘What are police and law enforcement agencies going to do to stop this pattern of targeted violence ... that is leaving victims left and right?” Rivera-Oven said.

Montgomery County Police spokeswoman Lucille Baur declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing investigation and the fact that two other suspects remain at large.

‘‘We are looking for additional suspects so it’s an evolving investigation at this time,” she said.