In the aftermath of a senseless hate crime, an all-American town finds itself desperately seeking answers: What really killed Marcelo Lucero?
In a deceptively peaceful Long Island town just before midnight on November 8, 2008, 37-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero is assaulted by a group of teenaged boys cruising the streets “beaner–hopping,” a term used to describe the decade-long ritual of attacking Latinos for sport. The adolescent “game” comes to an end with the fatal stabbing of Lucero, exposing a thinly veiled systemic intolerance for immigrants. Seventeen-year-old Jeffery Conroy, a popular high school athlete, is sentenced to 25-years for a hate crime, while the other teens get 5 to 8-years behind bars.
The local government, the press and the community agree that the problem is solved and justice has been served. All is well again in this haven of American suburbia. Or so it seems.
Not satisfied with easy answers, Deputized delves deeply into the complex environment in which teens – pumped with adrenaline, aggression, alcohol and anger – target vulnerable Latinos perceived to be undocumented. The film dissects the anti-immigration messages and rhetoric flooding the community and raises the question: Were the teens deputized by the forces within their community to commit such a senseless act?
Filmed over three years, Deputized doesn’t take sides or cast judgment. The fully bilingual documentary explores the crime from a variety of perspectives, probing the lives of the victim, the boys and the socio-political conditions that brought them together. The film follows Lucero’s brother as he fights for justice, Conroy’s father as he strives to seek a fair sentence for his son, a local politician as he spews his anti-immigration rhetoric, and the town as it tries to shake the stigma of intolerance. Deputized presents an unfiltered and comprehensive examination of the crime, its consequences and the impact it has on the lives of all those touched by it.
Through raw and honest interviews with family members on both sides, Jeffrey Conroy and the other teens charged, their high school classmates and victims of “beaner-hopping,” Deputized goes deep into the mindset of a community coming to terms with intolerance and how it destroys lives. The film provides a well-balanced framework to understand the murder and the role everyone played in Lucero’s death – from the parents who were unaware of their sons’ activities and the police who turned a blind eye to “beaner-hopping,” to the school that ignored the racial tension, the victims who were more afraid of the police than their attackers and the anti-immigrant messages infecting the media.
With the dramatic increase of hate crimes against Latinos, Deputized provides a launch pad for a national discussion on the attitudes toward immigration in America.