Cultural distrust hampers Mexican arson investigation

It has been 4 months since a fire swept through a west-side apartment complex and killed 10 people of Mexican heritage. Investigators have ruled it arson and the search for the person or people who set the fire continues. Progress is slow because cultural distrust continues to hamper detectives.

Arson is among the toughest crimes to solve says Franklin County Sheriffs Chief Deputy Steve Martin because much of the evidence is destroyed in the fire.

Add to that a language barrier, a cultural divide, and a transient population and solving the Lincoln park arson is even more difficult for investigators.

In the pre-dawn hours of September 12th, detectives say someone set a fire in a stairwell of a Lincoln Park West apartment building in Prairie Township.

The fire moved fast, trapping 10 people who lived in a third floor apartment. The victims were Mexican. Three of them were young children.

A task force comprised of investigators from the sheriff’s department, the state fire marshal’s office as well as the federal bureau of alcohol tobacco firearms and explosives continues to follow tips and leads.

In October, investigators released sketches of two men identified as witnesses, but that has been the only public progress in the case.

Investigators face a language barrier, but chief deputy steve martin says they’ve been able to deal with that.

The bigger issue to overcome is the Latino’s community distrust of law enforcement. Presumably many of those who could help are illegal immigrants and they fear helping police will get them deported. Chief martin.

The Ohio Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs and other cultural organizations have tried to encourage Hispanics to share what they know with police.

But the commissions’ director, Ezra Escudero, says it’s a challenge. He says trust is lacking, because Hispanic immigrants are marginalized by a society that uses their labor, but basically forces them to enter the country illegally.

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There is a reward for information – 57 thousand dollars. While saying it’s a lot of money to any culture, Escudero says it may not be enough.

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So the investigation continues. The posters hang in Spanish markets and restaurants. Police, community activists and especially the family of the victims hope someone comes forward with information.

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