Italian police have arrested an Italian in connection with the murder of a Nigerian salesman whose brutal death on a busy street in the seaside town was filmed by onlookers with no apparent attempt to physically intervene.
Video footage of the attack has circulated widely on Italian news sites and social media, sparking outrage as Italy enters a parliamentary election campaign in which the right-wing coalition has already made immigration an issue.
“The murder of Alika Ogorchukwu is appalling,” Enrico Letta, former prime minister and leader of the left-leaning Democratic Party, wrote on Twitter on Saturday, naming the vendor who died on Friday. “Unprecedented ferocity. Generalized indifference. There can be no justification.
Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, who is making security central to his campaign, also expressed outrage at the death, saying “security has no color and…must become a right again.”
Ogorchukwu, 39, was selling goods Friday on the main street of Civitanova Marche, a seaside town on the Adriatic Sea, when his attacker grabbed the vendor’s crutch and punched him, according to the police. The video shows the assailant wrestling the victim on his back on the sidewalk as he fights back, eventually subduing Ogorchukwu with the weight of his body.
“The attacker grappled with the victim, first hitting him with a crutch. He knocked him to the ground, then he finished, causing death, hitting him repeatedly with his bare hands,” said police investigator Matteo Luconi during a press conference.
He later told Italian news channel Sky TG24 that onlookers called police, who responded after the suspect fled and tried to provide assistance to the victim. An autopsy will determine if death was caused by beating, suffocation or some other cause.
Police used street cameras to track the assailant’s movements and arrested a man identified as 32-year-old Filippo Claudio Giuseppe Ferlazzo. He was suspected of murder and robbery for allegedly taking the victim’s phone.
Luconi said the attacker went on a rampage after the vendor made “insistent” demands for change. Police were interviewing witnesses and viewing videos of the attack. They said the suspect made no 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 due to 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 enraged when Ogorchukwu told the man’s female companion that she was beautiful.
“That compliment killed it,” Amanza said.
“The tragic fact is that there were a lot of people nearby. They filmed 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 a shooting targeting African immigrants who injured six people in 2018. Luca Traini, 31, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the shooting, which Italy’s top court has upheld ruled a hate crime.
Mayor of Civitanova Marche, Fabrizio Ciarapica, met with members of the Nigerian community after hundreds protested on Saturday.
“My conviction is not only for the (crime) but also for the indifference,” Ciarapica told Sky. “It’s something that shocked the citizens.”
former prime minister Matteo Renziwho leads his own small party, called on political leaders to have “instrumentalised” the attack.
“I am horrified by this electoral climate,” he said on social media. “A father was killed in an atrocious and racist way while passers-by filmed without arresting the attacker. And instead of thinking about what we are becoming, politicians argue and instrumentalize.