Today’s news:

New suspect charged in LIC murder of activist

Charges were dropped last week against four Long Island City men who had been accused of the 1999 murder of community activist Armando Perez, two days after the man now suspected in the crime was arrested on robbery charges in New Jersey, the Queens district attorney said.

Shaguye Colbert, 26, of Newark was arrested July 23 in New Jersey after failing to appear in court on a warrant in the robbery case, Queens district attorney spokeswoman Betsy Herzog said. He was then charged by the Queens DA with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in connection with the murder of Perez, she said.

“In the course of the investigation, we had identified him and when he was arrested we were made aware of that arrest,” Herzog said.

On July 25, charges were formally dropped against Long Island City residents James Jackson, 24, Darnell Mack, 19, Fabian McLaurin, 19, and Tracey Lamar, 24, all of whom had originally been charged in the murder.

Herzog said the four were originally arrested in June and July 1999 based on the testimony of eyewitnesses who were later found to be unreliable. They were released from jail on Nov. 3, 1999.

“The whole matter was still under investigation, that’s why charges were not immediately dismissed on them,” Herzog said.

Perez, 51, was found beaten on the cement in front of 34-04 24th St. early in the morning of April 3, 1999, and died later that evening at Elmhurst Hospital. Neighbors said at the time that he had been visiting his estranged wife Marilyn, who lived in the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City.

An autopsy showed that Perez died of blunt impact to the head and torso, according to Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the chief medical examiner’s office. His injuries included fractured ribs, lacerations to his spleen and brain hemorrhage, Borakove said.

Colbert allegedly kicked and struck Perez repeatedly with the help of another person, who has yet to be apprehended, the DA said in the criminal complaint. He was apparently visiting friends at 34-50 24th St. on the date of the crime, Herzog said.

Perez, a member of Community Board 3 in Manhattan and a Democratic district leader, founded Charas/El Bohio Cultural and Community Center, a rehearsal and performance space for artists, at 605 East 9th St. At the time of his death, Perez had been fighting to keep the group’s space in the building, which the city sold in 1998.

The timing of the murder had fueled speculation that Perez’s death might have been linked to his political activism, although police said at the time that they had found no evidence to confirm that theory.

The organization Perez helped found is still fighting to save its Manhattan home. More than 300 supporters of Charas rallied outside the East Village community center Saturday to oppose the potential eviction, which the landlord reportedly may order as early as Tuesday.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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