Wake honors homeless Good Samaritan who died on NYC sidewalk as people passed by

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Homeless Good Samaritan honored at NY wake

NEW YORK — About a dozen relatives and friends gathered Wednesday at a funeral home in Brooklyn to honor a Good Samaritan who was shown on video footage as passers-by ignored him while he lay, mortally wounded, on a city sidewalk outside an apartment building.

It was a humble service for Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, as mourners were outnumbered by television news crews and reporters, drawn to Funeraria La Fe in the scruffy Bushwick neighborhood by the national headlines generated by the Guatemalan immigrant’s death.

His body lay in an open casket, surrounded by flowers. A large wooden cross hung on the wall over his casket and a smaller one hung near a letter from a stranger, who had read about his story in the news. “He was an angel from God among us, and he was a brave, courageous, caring man, who sacrificed life to save someone else,” it read.

One of his grieving brothers, Byron Tale-Yax, said it was difficult to talk about the way his brother died.

“It’s a message about humanity,” he said. “We need to love one another.”

Police say the 31-year-old was stabbed to death after intervening in an argument between a man and a woman. In a video released late last week, Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax is seen falling to the ground in Queens after intervening in a fight and running after the suspect.

For nearly an hour, he lay on the ground as passers-by turn their heads to look at him, gawk or pause and walk off. One lifted his body to reveal blood on the sidewalk. By the time emergency workers arrived, he was dead.

His cousin, Edwin Tacam, sobbed as he spoke in English about his family’s anguish over the way Tale-Yax was ignored before he was found dead April 18. But he said the family’s biggest concern was that a suspect had not been arrested as of Wednesday afternoon.

“I think the person who did it is dangerous to the city,” Tacam said.

Police say they are still looking for the man and woman involved in the incident. They released surveillance footage and were asking for the public’s help in identifying the two people. Investigators believe the man and woman may have a relationship and may be why she has not contacted authorities.

As the family mourned, they spoke openly about Tale-Yax, offering details of the man’s itinerant life before his death was widely publicized with the release of surveillance video last week.

Two of his brothers and a sister said he had lived for a time with them in Jersey City, N.J., but a few months ago, after he couldn’t find work, he had decided to go to Queens, where there were more opportunities in construction or at restaurants. He sometimes got jobs at a day laborer site, they said.

While Tale-Yax had been living intermittently on the streets and at city shelters, his family said they tried to keep in contact but that it was hard because he didn’t have much access to a phone or other resources.

“We didn’t have much communication with him,” said Santos Tacam, 56, an uncle, who also lives in Jersey City.

The family said that Tale-Yax’s body would be repatriated to La Esperanza, in Guatemala, where their parents were waiting to accept him and planned to hold a funeral on Friday. The Guatemalan Consulate in New York has offered to pay for the repatriation of the body.

Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.

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