Latino leaders in the Mid-South, including the region's Mexican consulate, and federal prosecutors on Monday announced a partnership to attack crime against the Hispanic community.
U.S. Atty. Ed Stanton, host of a meeting of participants at the federal building in Memphis, pointed to the recent conviction of four armed robbers -- two Hispanic men and two black men -- who targeted Hispanic victims on the theory that they would be hesitant to report the crimes to police.
One of the victims, Carlos Suarez, came to the news conference to praise police and prosecutors of those responsible for sticking a gun to his head and waving it at customers while raiding La Herradura Western Wear, a store he owned in 2009.
"It is ugly when you get a gun to your head," Suarez said.
All four men -- David Cuadrado, Tobey Becton, Orel Chapa and Mark Ellis -- pleaded guilty to robbery charges for targeting Suarez's Summer Avenue store on Dec. 16, 2009. Six days earlier, Chapa and Becton robbed El Ranchito grocery store on Macon Road, forcing employees and customers to the ground at gunpoint.
The sentences for the four men ranged from nine to 18 years in federal prison.
"There's no parole, so that is significant," Stanton said.
Regional Mexican Consul David Manuel Preciado Juarez, who is based in Little Rock, said he came to the news briefing to express his support in strengthening relations between law enforcement and the region's more than 700,000 Hispanic residents.
He told Stanton: "We know you are working very hard."
Stanton responded: "This is something that is a priority for me as U.S. Attorney."
Suarez encouraged other Hispanic victims to speak out.
"There is hope that we are not alone," he said. "There really is a way to get to this point of justice, to get criminals in jail."
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