updated 12/9/2008 9:38:21 PM ET 2008-12-10T02:38:21

Authorities opened a homicide investigation Tuesday into a vicious attack on an Ecuadorean immigrant whose assailants shouted anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs, then beat him with a baseball bat and kicked him.

Jose Sucuzhanay, 31, was attacked as he walked arm in arm with his 38-year-old brother early Sunday in Brooklyn. He had been listed in critical condition after undergoing brain surgery at Elmhurst Hospital in neighboring Queens.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Sucuzhanay had been declared brain dead and was taken off life support Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Relatives, though, held a news conference to say that Sucuzhanay was clinging to life and that the family had to make an important decision to make.

The three assailants were still being sought.

While it does not appear the men were targeted specifically for being Ecuadorean, members of the Latin American community said they feel vulnerable and must be vigilant about safety.

Police in New York said Tuesday that the two brothers first attended a church party, then stopped at a bar. They may have been tipsy as they leaned on each other for support walking home.

Jose wore a tank top, Romel a T-shirt with a jacket tied over his shoulders. Arm in arm, they paused at a street corner where a sport utility vehicle was at a stoplight, police said.

Anti-gay slurs heard
Witnesses nearby said they heard the men in the car shouting anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs at the brothers. One attacker jumped out of the SUV and smashed a beer bottle over Jose Sucuzhanay's head.

As Romel Sucuzhanay ran away, two other men exited the vehicle and joined the assault, police said. One hit Jose Sucuzhanay in the head with an aluminum baseball bat while the others kicked him, police said.

At some point, the brother returned holding a cell phone and announced he had called police. The attackers drove off, and Romel Sucuzhanay escaped uninjured.

Police, who revised their account of the crime Tuesday after initially saying there were four attackers, said robbery was not a motive. The office of Brooklyn prosecutor Charles Hynes and the New York Police Department's hate crime task force were investigating. They urged the public to help identify the attackers.

The NYPD is offering a $22,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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