The group of about 15 people approached Fernando Rodriguez shortly before 9 p.m. as he stood at Northern Boulevard and 70th Street in Jackson Heights and began beating him, a witness told police, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney filed against the four teens arrested.
Another witness, who arrived at the scene after hearing a commotion, saw Rodriguez "lying on the ground with severe head injuries," the complaint said.
Rodriguez was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Medical Center, where he was "being treated for blunt head trauma, brain hemorrhaging, a detached retina, multiple facial fractures and is currently in a coma," the complaints said.
Rodriguez was still in "very critical condition" Tuesday, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Rodriguez's family told hospital officials Monday they did not wish to comment.
Newsday reported his family described him as a hard worker who put in long hours at a Bronx fruit and vegetable co-op to supplement their income.
The four teenagers arrested in connection with the assault range in age from 15 to 17, a spokeswoman for the district attorney said.
Law enforcement sources said the motive for the attack was unclear, but the eldest of the four arrested admitted to police he was a member of the Latin Kings, an Hispanic rights organization that has been linked in the past to gang activity.
All four were arraigned Monday evening before Queens Criminal Court Justice Fernando Camacho on charges of attempted murder, gang assault, assault and criminal possession of a weapon, the DA's spokeswoman said.
Camacho ordered them held without bail and set a return date of June 10, the spokeswoman said.
Francis Calle, 16, of 81st Street in Jackson Heights, and two other 15-year-old Hispanic boys were arrested about 20 minutes after the attack, the complaint said.
Police said they found Calle toting an aluminum baseball bat and with bloodstains on his shoes, the complaint said.
Calle later admitted to detectives that he beat Rodriguez and pointed the finger at one of his 15-year-old companions, who according to police was found with a machete, the complaint said. Calle told police the 15-year-old punched Rodriguez in the ribs while 10 to 15 others beat him with "bats, metal pipes and sticks," the complaint said.
Calle's attorney, Carlos Perez Olivo, was in federal court Tuesday and unavailable for comment at press time.
Ruben Hoffman, 17, of Jackson Heights was arrested later, law enforcement sources said.
The criminal complaint filed against him said he admitted beating Rodriguez with a bat.
Hoffman told police he was a member of the Latin Kings, a law enforcement source said.
Hoffman's lawyer, James Shalley, did not return phone calls to his office before press time.
Calle and Hoffman are being charged as adults and face up to 25 years in jail if convicted of the felony counts. The two 15-year-olds are being charged as juveniles and face a maximum sentence of 3 to 10 years in prison.
Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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