By Michael Morton
Political leaders from around the borough gathered for a rally Tuesday at a Chinese restaurant in South Jamaica to support the family of a teenage deliveryman robbed and killed Friday.
During short speeches to a small crowd of onlookers, the officials confronted the violent act and the issues of race and ethnicity evoked by the crime.
“Our city and community will not tolerate this kind of violence against the kind of people who bend over backwards to serve the community,” said Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who helped organize the event. He was joined by members of the City Council and the state Legislature representing a wide swath of the borough.
The elected officials came to demand justice for the murder of Huang Chen, an 18-year-old who emigrated from China with his family 10 years ago to Woodside and who worked at his family’s Ming Garden restaurant on Guy R. Brewer Boulevard.
Chen was robbed and killed after he made a delivery to the nearby Rochdale Village complex, and two teens were later arrested for the crime, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
At the rally, Yan Chen, the older sister of the victim, spoke briefly through tears about her desire for justice.
“Even though nothing can bring my brother back, I want those who killed him to be in jail forever,” she said. She could be seen later crying on the shoulder of Borough President Helen Marshall.
The case resonated across the borough, dredging up memories of two similar crimes in southeast Queens that took place in 1999 and 2000. In both of those cases an Asian-American deliveryman was robbed and killed, and the perpetrators later convicted of the crimes were mainly black.
Police said the 16-year-olds arrested in Chen’s murder are black. But Liu and other leaders were quick to say that race did not play a role in the crime, and they pointed out that other deliverymen from a wide variety of backgrounds had also been robbed in the area.
“This is not about what the race and the family background of the victim and the victim’s family is,” Liu said, adding that the same held true for the suspects.
“We came here on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat,” Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) said. While some news reports said the teenage boys may have robbed Chen to get money for some Air Jordan sneakers, Liu said the information was not true and just helped perpetuate stereotypes.
Liu and other leaders said that to prevent such crimes in the future, Chen’s killers must be dealt with harshly.
“The message has to be loud and clear that this must stop,” said Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). “We must let these young people know they must not emulate these things,” he said of the deliverymen killings.
Five teenagers were convicted and sent to prison in the 2000 murder of a Chinese deliveryman in St. Albans and two men who were teenagers at the time of a similar killing in Hollis in 1999 were given 25 years to life in jail.
Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext.154.