December 10th, 2009

Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, Police Officials Indicted for Attempting to Cover Up Murder of Mexican Immigrant

On July 12, 2008, six white teenagers beat Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez to death in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, while taunting him with racial slurs and threats including: “Spic,” “fucking Mexican,” and “This is Shenandoah. This is America. Go back to Mexico.” After leaving Mr. Ramirez, a 25-year-old father of two, unconscious and convulsing on the pavement, one of the attackers yelled: “Tell your fucking Mexican friends to get the fuck out of Shenandoah or you're going to be fucking laying next to him.” Mr. Ramirez died of his injuries two days later.

Less than a year later, in May 2009, an all-white local jury acquitted Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky, the two lead defendants, of murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault. The jury instead convicted Donchak and Piekarsky of the lesser charges of simple assault and alcohol related offenses; they served roughly six months in jail before being released.

In response to that verdict and outcry from Governor Ed Rendell, among others, federal prosecutors brought hate crime charges against Donchak and Piekarsky in December 2009. Witnesses testified that Donchak often wore a “Border Patrol” T-shirt and drove through town blasting from the speakers of his pickup truck “The White Man Marches On” – a racist song glorifying violence against minorities. The men were convicted of hate crimes and each sentenced to serve nine years in prison. A third participant in the beating pled guilty to the same charges and testified against his co-defendants, ultimately receiving a sentence of 55 months.

On December 10, 2009, Shenandoah’s then-Chief of Police Matthew R. Nestor and then-Lt. William Moyer were also federally indicted for attempting to cover up the crime. The policemen were ultimately convicted of obstruction of justice for filing a false police report and lying to the FBI about the investigation. The chief and lieutenant received sentences of 13 months and 3 months, respectively.