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Police seek witnesses in August bias murder

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The bias murder of a gay man who was bludgeoned as he returned home from a Jackson Heights bar could be solved if witnesses come forward to report what they saw, police told a public forum this week.

Inspector Chris Jamison, the commanding officer of the 115th Precinct, attended a town hall meeting at the Pride Community Center in Corona Monday night to update the community about the progress that has been made in the investigation of the Aug. 15 assault and eventual death of Edgar Garzon of Jackson Heights.

Jamison announced the case was “not going as well as any of us want it to” because the crime was probably witnessed by illegal immigrants who refuse to contact police for fear of bringing attention to their own status.

“We continue to hear that there are members of the community that know more than we do,” Jamison said. “That’s what’s going to solve this homicide.”

Garzon, 35, a naturalized citizen from Colombia, was struck three times in the head with a blunt object at the corner of 77th Street and 37th Avenue by unknown men who had followed him in a car as he returned home from Friends, a popular gay bar on Roosevelt Avenue, police said.

“On a Friday night on 37th Avenue, there are a lot of people out there,” Jamison said. “There had to be five, eight, 10 people in the general vicinity who know something who don’t want to come forward.”

Garzon died Sept. 4 after lingering in a coma for nearly three weeks at Elmhurst Hospital.

Jamison said police originally considered the case to be a robbery because Garzon’s wallet could not be found on his body.

But leaders of the borough’s gay community were convinced the attack was motivated by bias, and it was reclassified as a hate crime by police when Garzon’s wallet was later recovered in his apartment, ruling out the possibility of robbery.

Jamison said the Police Department is also investigating other leads, but emphasized that the majority of crimes are solved by involving the public.

“It’s not dead, but it certainly could use some energizing,” Jamison said of the investigation.

The inspector stressed that the police play no role in immigration matters and would respect the confidentiality of all witnesses regardless of their immigration status.

The case has also been hampered by the World Trade Center disaster, which has forced Queens precincts to send many of their officers into Manhattan and preoccupied FBI investigators, Jamison said.

Officers advised the 20 or so people attending the meeting to report any incidents of bias shortly after they occur.

“The more bias crimes are reported to us, the more actively they’re pursued,” said Officer Carl Calderone. “The less tolerant the community becomes of harassment, the more common the arrests will come.”

The meeting was also attended by Garzon’s parents and two other relatives, who entered quietly and listened intently from couches as the conversation was translated into Spanish for them.

They said through a translator that they had previously been concerned police did not consider the case to be important because they are from another country.

“This has reinforced in their heart and soul that the New York Police Department is working on it, that they have not forgot their son,” said Maritza Martinez, the co-chair of the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee, translating for Garzon’s parents.

Daniel Dromm, the other co-chair of the committee, offered words of support to the victim’s parents.

“We suffer very much because of the death of your son,” he said.

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

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