Corona man arraigned on murder charges for killing immigrant with blow to head during gang assault: DA

Corona man arraigned
A Corona man was officially charged with murder for allegedly smashing a Guatemalan immigrant in his head with a wooden board causing his death at Junction Boulevard gas station last month. (File photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

A Corona man is facing life in prison for allegedly beating a 22-year-old Guatemalan immigrant to death at a Junction Boulevard gas station last month, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

Michael Santander, 20, of 39th Avenue in Corona, was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Marty Lentz in a complaint charging him with murder, gang assault and criminal possession if a weapon for allegedly bludgeoning the victim, Esvin Vasquez, with a wooden board.

Vasquez, the father of a 1-year-old boy, was living on 43rd Avenue near 96th Street, around the corner from the spot where he was beaten to death.

According to the complaint, at around 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13, Santander was part of a gang that surrounded the victim at a BP gas station on Junction Boulevard near the intersection of 44th Avenue in Corona. Video surveillance footage shows Santander and the group of men, who remain at large, knocking Vasquez to the ground and then kicking him repeatedly in the head and body. Santander is seen picking up a wooden board and striking Vasquez in the head, “thereby causing his death,” and then he proceeds to use the lumber to beat a second victim, who suffered multiple broken ribs and “substantial pain,” according to the complaint.

Police from the 110th Precinct responded to a 911 call of an assault in progress and found Vasquez lying on the ground with a severe head injury. EMS responded to the crime scene and rushed Vasquez to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to the NYPD.

Detectives from the NYPD’s Regional Fugitive Task Force took Santander into custody on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

“The life of a young father was cut short in a shockingly brutal attack,” Katz said. “As alleged, the defendant kicked and battered one victim causing his death, and seriously injured a second. The defendant will be held accountable and we will find the other perpetrators of this heinous crime.”

Santander faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.