On April 12, 2008, Kenny Lazo, 24, was beaten to death while in police custody in Bay Shore (Suffolk County, Long Island). Five officers beat Kenny and then left him to die inside the precinct. Although the coroner ruled his death a homicide, the district attorney did not vigorously pursue indictment. One year later, Kenny’s family has initiated a $155 million lawsuit against the Suffolk County police and has renewed their efforts to win him justice. Liberation newspaper’s Yenica Cortes interviewed Jennifer Gonzalez, Kenny’s partner and the mother of his son, about the case and her campaign to win justice.
Liberation: What can you say about Kenny?
Jennifer Gonzales: He was a good person, caring, loving, family-oriented, always there for everyone. Always there for our son. He was a good man, good-hearted, hard working. He worked construction in the union.
Liberation: Can you tell us in detail what you know about what happened to Kenny once he was in police custody, the injuries he sustained and what the Coroner determined was the cause of death?
JG: Kenny was beaten by five officers with their flashlights. He had blunt impacts to the skull, the face and the body. The autopsy showed he was choked with a flashlight while handcuffed and face down on the floor. He was missing teeth; his tongue was sliced in two. I don’t know if he bit it some way some how during the beating, but you can see in the pictures his tongue was sliced.
The medical examiner declared his death a homicide. The coroner said he believed his men did what they had to do to protect and serve, and that they stand 100 percent behind their cops and the force they used. He said the cops used their proper training. From what we know, according to a witness, Kenny was brought to the precinct already beaten and they left him in his cell with nothing but his boxers on.
And the witness said they overheard one of the officers tell another female cop, “Let’s drag this dead body out of here before it starts to stink up the place.” But the EMTs were not called until one hour or so later, and by then he was already dead.
Liberation: What has the district attorney done to find justice for Kenny?
Download the English and Spanish informational flyer on the case of Kenny Lazo
Liberation: What is the role of the cops in your community? How do people view them?
JG: I never had a problem with them before this. I respected them; always felt they were there for us, to protect us. A lot of Hispanic and Black community members, a lot of us feel cops are racist because there are a lot of white cops who are racist. They are always harassing us, stopping us for no apparent reason. A lot of people feel they are racist. Ever since Kenny was killed, a lot of people reach out to me about how the cops in Bay Shore are always quick to hit people and violate their rights. The cops abuse their power.
Liberation: What are your demands for the DA and the police?
JG: We want them to own up to what they did, to admit what they did was wrong. They took my son’s father away from us. The least they can do is tell the truth and help us seek justice.
Liberation: How can people support the struggle to find justice for Kenny?
JG: They could support by coming to our events. … You know, we hold vigils for him almost every month in front of the 3rd precinct to show that we are not going to give up. People relate to what happened to Kenny. They can e-mail us and we can support each other. The e-mail address is [email protected]
Liberation: Is there anything else you would like to let people know about Kenny and his case?
JG: We are all affected. If it’s not one of us, it’s the next one. I just want people to know the cops painted a picture of Kenny being a horrible man. He was a really good father. This destroyed me and my son. We are in a lot of pain. My son is six years old, and for the rest of his life he will not have a father. There is no one who could replace Kenny for us. This experience changed me completely. Even if nothing happens with Kenny’s case, I want to be involved and help others, keep this from happening to others.