– The Associated Press

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. – Moments after an Ecuadorean immigrant was stabbed to death during a confrontation with a group of Long Island teenagers, the youth suspected of inflicting the fatal blow admitted he had a knife and was responsible for the stabbing, one of his friends testified Monday.

Nicholas Hausch, 18, who has pleaded guilty to gang assault, conspiracy and other crimes, appeared Monday as a prosecution witness in the trial of Jeffrey Conroy.

Prosecutors say Conroy was one of seven teenagers, including Hausch, who surrounded and killed Marcelo Lucero on a Patchogue street in November 2008. Conroy, who has pleaded not guilty, is the only one charged with murder and manslaughter as a hate crime; prosecutors say he is the one who actually stabbed Lucero.

Hausch also has admitted participating in other attacks on Hispanics, including an incident about 24 hours before Lucero was killed in which he and two other friends fired a BB gun at a Hispanic person.

The Lucero case has focused attention on the animosity between the largely white population on Long Island and an influx of Hispanics, many from Central and South America suspected of illegally entering the United States. Prosecutors say Lucero’s death was the culmination of a campaign of violence that targeted Hispanic immigrants.

Lucero, 37, was walking with a friend near the Patchogue train station around midnight when they were confronted by the teenagers, who prosecutors say were strolling around town looking for targets.

Hausch, who faces from five to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced after Conroy’s trial, testified that Conroy confided in him moments after Lucero was stabbed that he was responsible. “He was walking past me and he said: ‘We gotta go.’ He said he stabbed him,” Hausch testified.

Hausch said he and the others implored Conroy to ditch the knife, but Conroy told them he had washed it off in a puddle. But Hausch said that when he saw the knife, it was still bloodstained.

Minutes later, as the teens walked back to their car, they were arrested by police blocks from where Lucero was killed.

On cross-examination, defense attorney William Keahon got Hausch to concede that he never saw Conroy with the knife before the killing and that he didn’t actually witness the stabbing.