NYC mourns homeless hero

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Relatives of Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax said he was the type of man who came to the help of anyone in need, so after several pedestrians did nothing as he lay dying from a stab wound meant for a stranger, the Guatemalan immigrant’s family has been trying to figure out why his heroism was not returned.

“Why didn’t she call? Why didn’t she get help?” Ronaldo Tale-Yax asked of the mysterious woman his younger brother saved during a mugging at the corner of 88th Road and 144th Street more than two weeks ago.

Although no one could save the 31-year-old, many New Yorkers joined his family on April 28 to pay their last respects to the Good Samaritan at his wake at Funeraria La Fe in Bushwick. A dozen relatives could not hold back their tears as they gazed at their relative one last time before his body was flown out to his native land Friday for burial.

Hugo Tale-Yax, one of seven siblings who immigrated to the United States, had been homeless in Queens for the last couple of months ever since he lost his job in construction, according to his younger brother, Byron Tale-Yax. The slain immigrant stayed with Byron Tale-Yax at his home in Jersey City, N.J., until he was unemployed and moved to Queens to look for new opportunities, according to the family.

Despite never finding a stable job in America, Hugo would keep his spirits up and offer his services to anyone who needed it, his family said. On several occasions, he would go to work some days without pay to assist his fellow day laborers and boss, Byron Tale-Yax said.

“He was kind to everyone,” he said.

The immigrant’s openness to helping others is what ultimately led to his murder, according to authorities. Around 7:30 a.m. on April 18, an unidentified woman was being mugged at the Jamaica corner when Hugo Tale-Yax intervened and was stabbed by the mysterious assailant, police said.

As both the woman and suspect fled the scene, the immigrant collapsed in front of a nearby apartment building and for an indeterminate amount of time, at least eight pedestrians passed Hugo Tale-Yax’s body without providing assistance, according to authorities. The entire incident was caught on the building’s surveillance cameras.

Ronaldo Tale-Yax said he was shocked when he had to go to the morgue after learning his brother was murdered April 18.

“I felt sad because he tried to assist someone and he lost his own life,” the brother said.

Others outside the Tale-Yax family felt the same way.

Rosa Akidil, a senior citizen from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, came to the funeral home to pay her respects to Hugo Tale-Yax after reading about the incident in the newspapers.

Akidil said she could not understand how New Yorkers, especially the female victim, could just watch such a heroic man die.

“I don’t know her situation, but the situation is that she is alive because he assisted her,” she said.

Investigators were also trying to answer the question since neither the mugging victim nor the stabber had been found as of press time Tuesday.

The mugging victim has been described as a 5--foot-3 woman with a thin build and wearing a 3/4 length jacket and a skirt and the suspect, who police say is a 5-foot-6 man with a medium build, was seen wearing a green short-sleeved shirt, dark pants and a green hat.

Investigators were combing through several pieces of evidence, including the surveillance footage, police said.

A fund set up by the Guatemalan consulate and the state Crime Victims Board paid for the immigrant’s body to be flown back to Guatemala for proper burial, according to Rosa Maria Merida, the consul general of the Central American nation in New York.

Merida said the support has been growing from around the country as more people hear about Hugo Tale-Yax.

“I think New Yorkers are concerned about this,” she said. “I am really surprised this happened to him in a city where assistance is easy to be obtained.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 5:48 pm, October 10, 2011
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