In the fields of Hempstead High School, where two years ago a pupil was robbed and stabbed to death while playing handball, a tribute to both the teenager’s favorite sport and the place where he was assaulted is now etched in his memory.
On January 18, 2008, 15-year-old freshman Michael Alguera was playing handball on campus after class was fired when police said a group of masked men robbed him and his his friends, their cell phones and stabbed him in the stomach as they fled.
The case remains unsolved, but the school grounds have a permanent landmark in Alguera. On Friday, officials from the school district and the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office unveiled a new handball court, lined in sky blue paint that matched the spotless sunny skies.
“It’s the most respectful and beautiful thing that can happen from a tragedy,” Alguera’s older brother Steve, 23, said as he looked out over the pitch, built next to the soccer field.
During a groundbreaking ceremony, District Attorney Kathleen Rice pledged to continue investigating the case. “We will never stop trying to solve this crime,” she said, looking at Michael’s parents, Oscar and Clementina, and brothers Steve and Oscar Jr., 19.
Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall has asked for help with the investigation. “Somebody over there knows something,” he said. “I beg you all, if you know something, come forward.”
Clementina Alguera spoke tearfully in Spanish, demanding justice for her son. After the ceremony, she said through a family interpreter that she had mixed emotions: “Standing here is where the tragedy happened. But it’s also like bringing it back. “
Assistant District Attorney Rene Fiechter said raising $28,000 for the court took two years. “It’s not over yet,” he said, noting that the field still needs fencing and volunteer coaches.
But for now, the new ground was awaiting its first handball game on Friday afternoon. Steve Alguera solemnly served a ball and Oscar Jr., in tears, played next to him.