Italians ask if murder of immigrants could have been stopped

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ROME — Italians debated on Sunday whether a Nigerian street vendor could have been saved from a fatal attack by an enraged Italian that unfolded in public as passers-by watched. Mourners left flowers and placards decrying the violence and indifference of loved ones.

As walkers strolled along a busy shopping street in Civitanova Marche, an Italian town on the Adriatic Sea, on Saturday, Alika Ogorchukwu, 39, was left for dead after first being hit with her own crutch then beaten furiously by the suspect.

“Four minutes of horror,” headlined the Corriere della Sera, noting that other Nigerian immigrants in the city had spoken out against the indifference and racism seen in the murder.

Video footage of the attack circulated on Italian news sites and social media.

A judge will decide on Monday whether the alleged attacker, identified by police as Filippo Claudio Giuseppe Ferlazzo, 32, should remain in jail pending the investigation.

Police investigator Matteo Luconi said the assailant sued the vendor following Ogorchukwu’s “insistent” demands of the suspect and his female companion for change. The lawyer for the slain man said he was assaulted after complimenting the beauty of the woman.

An autopsy will help determine if Ogorchukwu died from the beatings or was strangled as he lay on his back with his attacker on top of him and punching him.

Ogorchukwu frequently hawked packets of tissues or lighters to customers, local shopkeepers said.

During a popular talk show on Italian public radio on Sunday, listeners called in to denounce the indifference of at least two passers-by who filmed the event and the fear generated by the attack.

A listener recalled a young man beaten to death by a gang of Italian youths near Rome in 2020 as he tried to defend a friend and subdue a fight. A court recently sentenced four Italians, two of them to life in prison, for the murder of Willy Monteiro Duarte, a cook whose family is originally from Cape Verde.

On Sunday, people stopped at the spot where Ogorchukwu died, leaving flowers and tying signs to a tree, including one decrying “violence, racism, indifference”.

Some radio listeners were outraged that two bystanders used their phones to film the attack and no one apparently tried to pull the suspect away from his victim. Police said some had called to report an attack in progress, but by the time help arrived Ogorchukwu was dead.

A caller asked the host what he would have done if he had been there.

“I would have kicked him,” replied Mario Sechi, director of Italian news agency AGI.

The attack comes as Italian politicians start campaigning for early parliamentary elections on September 25. The anti-migrant leader of the right-wing League party, Matteo Salvini, has made immigration as well as the protection of citizens from violent crime his main issues.

On Sunday, Salvini claimed in a tweet that his centre-left opponents were exploiting the Nigerian’s death to “accuse me, the League and millions of Italians of racism.” Sordid.”

Bishop Rocco Pennacchio, whose diocese includes Civitanova Marche, has decided that instead of homilies, several minutes of silence will be observed during Sunday masses.

The mayor of nearby San Severino Marche, where Ogorchukwu lived with his wife, son and niece, said the city would pay for the funeral. Italian media said local citizens had also started raising money to help his widow.

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