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While the nation grapples with an intense immigration debate, officials believe Hispanics are being targeted in a series of shootings in Indiana; the latest being a 14-year-old who was shot in the back, Fox 59 reports.

Brian Zaragoza was leaving a Mexican market with his mother in Indianapolis Friday when shots rang out of a moving vehicle, hitting the teen in the lower back. Zaragoza says the moment he was shot, he heard the suspect yell a racist anti-Mexican slur. Doctors decided to leave the bullet in his back in fear of causing more damage, according to the report.

Before the incident involving Zaragoza, a Mexican taco stand blocks away was also targeted. The bullets hit an SUV with two adults and two children inside. They were unharmed. A Hispanic-owned smoke shop was also robbed over the weekend. A female employee was punched in the face by an unknown assailant and shot at when she tried to flee.

Zaragoza doesn’t believe he was personally targeted, but says the Mexican businesses in the city probably were.

“If they were just targeting random Mexican places, then I guess I was just wrong place wrong time,” he said.

Carlos May, executive of the Indiana Latino Expo, says the current national conversation regarding immigration could be a factor in the series of shootings.

“The fact that they yelled out a racial term and made it about that–obviously the intent there, in my opinion, is clear because they are specifying why they are shooting at this kid,” said May. “A lot of times these victims are targeted specifically because they just assume they won’t go to the police. Maybe they assume that because of the language issue or the immigration status issue.”

According to collection of census data by Suburban Stats, the city has a total of 77,352 Latinos. The majority of Latino residents are Mexican.

Police are continuing to investigate, but haven’t officially labeled the shootings hate crimes as of yet.



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14-Year-Old Indianapolis Boy Shot In Back, Called A Racial Slur  was originally published on