WOODSIDE — A churchgoing Filipino man who was punched in the face on a street in Queens on Saturday has died — and investigators are treating the case as a potential hate crime, police and sources said Tuesday.
Robert Martires, 56, of Elmhurst, was pronounced dead at Elmhurst Hospital on Tuesday after he was assaulted by an unknown person on Roosevelt Avenue near 69th Street in Woodside, just blocks away from his home, according to the NYPD.
Sources said Martires, a father of two who worked as a limo driver, was asked "Are you Filipino?" and then punched in the face by the unknown attacker just after midnight last Saturday.
He then fell and hit his head on the ground and was brought to the hospital in critical condition.
According to sources, a friend who was with the victim said he was taunted about being Filipino. But the witness did not mention the ethnic taunts to investigators at first.
A memorial was erected at the site of the attack with the victim's picture and an inscription saying that "he was viciously attacked on this spot."
The Philippine Consulate did not immediately respond to a call for comment.
Friends mourned the loss of the victim.
Family friend Efram Deleon described him as "my brother." "He's a nice guy, a very good guy," he said.
On a typical day, he would work and then "eat in one of the places on Roosevelt, and he'd go home."
Just before the attack, Martires had been hanging out drinking coffee with a friend at Krystal's Cafe, on Roosevelt Avenue, near the crime scene.
"He was our customer for a long time, and he's a good person," said Nini Ramos, a worker there.
Friends said that Martires was a church-going man.
Celia Mangao, the branch manager of Lucky Money, a bank to courier service, said he was "always in the church" at Yeshua Worldwide Ministries on 61st Street.
Police released a photo Monday of a man wanted for questioning, described as being in his early to mid-20s, with facial hair.
He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and a dark-colored baseball cap, according to the NYPD.
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.