The family of a man who was shot in the face by immigration agents in Gravesend last week filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the ICE officer who fired the gun, the victim’s family announced.
“This is not just an attack against me, but also an attack against the entire Latino community in the United States,” the victim said in a statement. “This is the right time for our community to come together to protest against and protect ourselves from ICE’s violence.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were trying to arrest an allegedly undocumented Gravesend man, Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez, at his W. 12th Street house on Feb. 6 when Erick Diaz-Cruz intervened. An ICE officer shot at the Diaz-Cruz, and the bullet struck 26-year-old’s hand and hit his cheek, according to witnesses.
First responders rushed Diaz-Cruz to the Maimonides Medical Center in stable condition. He underwent two surgeries two days later, and was released from the hospital on Wednesday night, his family said.
“Erick came out of surgery around 1:30 pm; surgery that lasted several hours where the bullet he had since Thursday was taken out,” a friend of the family wrote in a Facebook post on Feb. 8. “Surgeons at Maimonides hospital did an excellent job, right now he is in recovery.”
Diaz-Cruz has legal immigration papers, the Consulate General of Mexico in New York told reporters, while the suspect of the ICE investigation is undocumented. In a statement, ICE claimed that the suspect is “a twice-removed illegal alien from Mexico with a 2011 assault conviction in New York City” who they arrested on Feb. 6 because of a recent traffic stop.
ICE officials are holding Avendano-Hernandez in a New Jersey facility, advocates say.
Diaz-Cruz’s family, meanwhile, is calling on federal authorities and the Attorney General to investigate the shooting.
Diaz-Cruz, represented by Katie Rosenfeld and Scout Katovich of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, filed the lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York to seek damages for the shooting, which lodged a bullet in his neck for life and caused vision loss in his left eye, among other injuries, the complaint said.
On Feb. 16, local activist groups held a candlelight vigil near the family’s Gravesend house to stand in solidarity with Diaz-Cruz and Avendano-Hernandez, drawing dozens of supporters expressed their support for the family.
The family’s neighbor, Fabiola Mendieta, has also started a fundraiser to cover the family’s medical expense, which had raised more than $6,500 as of Feb. 18.
ICE representatives did not respond to a request for comment.