Police in Italy have arrested an Italian man in connection with the murder of a Nigerian salesman whose brutal beating death on a busy beach street was filmed by onlookers with no apparent attempt to physically intervene.
Video footage of the attack has circulated widely on Italian news websites and social media, sparking outrage as Italy enters a parliamentary election campaign where the right-wing coalition has already made immigration a topic.
“The killing of Alika Ogorchukwu is terrible,” Enrico Letta, a former prime minister and head of the leftist Democratic Party, wrote on Twitter on Saturday, naming the seller who died on Friday. “Unheard of violence. Widespread indifference. There can be no justification.”
Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, who is making security part of his campaign, also expressed outrage at the death, saying “security has no color and … must go back to being a right.”
Ogorchukwu, 39, was selling goods on Friday in the main street of Civitanova Marche, a seaside town on the Adriatic Sea, when his attacker grabbed the seller’s crutch and knocked him down, according to the police. Video shows the assailant breaking the victim’s back on the sidewalk as he fought back, eventually subduing Ogorchukwu with the weight of his body.
“The assailant went after the victim, first hitting him with a crutch. He made him fall to the ground, then he finished, causing death, hitting repeatedly with his bare hands,” police investigator Matteo Luconi said at a press conference.
He later told Italian news channel Sky TG24 that bystanders called the police, who responded after the suspect had fled and tried to help the victim. An autopsy will determine whether the death was provoked by a blow, suffocation or another cause.
Police used street cameras to track the assailant’s movements and arrested a man identified as Filippo Claudio Giuseppe Ferlazzo, 32. He was arrested on suspicion of murder and theft for allegedly taking the victim’s phone.
Luconi said the assailant lashed out after the vendor made “insistent” requests for pocket change. Police interviewed witnesses and watched videos of the attack. They said the suspect has not made a statement.
Ogorchukwu, who was married with two children, resorted to selling goods on the street after he was hit by a car and lost his job as a laborer because of his injuries, said Daniel Amanza, who runs the ACSIM association for immigrants in the Marche region. Province of Macerata.
Amanza gave a different version of what happened, saying the attacker became angry when Ogorchukwu told the man’s companion that she was beautiful.
“That compliment killed him,” Amanza said.
“The tragic fact is that there were a lot of people around. They were filming and saying ‘Stop,’ but no one moved to separate them,” Amanza said.
The city has a recent history of anti-immigrant attacks
Macerata was the site of one shooting party targeting African immigrants that wounded six people in 2018. Luca Traini, 31, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the shooting, which Italy’s highest court confirmed qualified as a hate crime.
Civitanova Marche’s mayor, Fabrizio Ciarapica, met members of the Nigerian community after hundreds of demonstrations on Saturday.
“My condemnation is not only for (the crime), but it is also for the indifference,” Ciarapica told Sky. “This is something that has shocked the citizens.”
Former Prime Minister Matteo Renziwho leads his own small party, called out political leaders for “instrumentalizing” the attack.
“I am appalled by this election climate,” he said on social media. “Another was killed in a cruel and racist way while passers-by took video without stopping the abuser. And instead of reflecting on what we are becoming, the politicians argue and instrumentalize.”