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Homicide victim came to US to escape violence in homeland

Published On: Jan 09 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 11 2012 04:35:39 AM CST

A refugee from Africa has been identified as Allentown's first homicide victim of 2012.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

He came to this country to escape the violence of war, but ended up losing his lifeĀ on the streets.

Hagos Mezgebo, a refugee from the war-torn African nation of Eritrea, was identified Monday as Allentown'a first homicide victim of 2012.

Catholic Charities brought Mezgebo, 22, to the United States three years ago.

No one, not his friends or his co-workers, said they saw this coming.

"Seeking peace and tranquility and coming here and then meeting such an untimely and unfortunate death is certainly something that has been a shock to all of us here," said Will Miller, Catholic Charities.

Mezgebo was one of 76 refugees brought to the U.S. by the Diocese of Allentown's Catholic Charities program.

Before then, Mezgebo spent two -and-a-half years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, with scant food, water and medical treatment.

The program helped him find a place to live, take English classes so he could become a citizen and find a job at Heaps on 17th Street.

Mezgebo sent much of his paycheck back to his family in Eritrea.

His friends, also refugees, are devastated by his death. His supervisor said Mezgebo was a shy person who worked hard.

"He was quiet. He was shy," said Brandon Hieter. "We would joke around with him a little bit to get him laughing. He enjoyed it here. It's a shame to hear what happened to him."

Mezgebo didn't run around with the wrong crowd, said Miller, adding that immigrants don't always understand the culture and customs of their new country.

"They are not as attuned or even knowledgeable about things that would concern or worried about," said Miller.

Mezgebo was an orthodox Christian. His death happened at the beginning of the Christmas celebration, which Miller said was very hard for the Eritrean community to deal with.

Catholic Charities is helping Mezgebo's family with funeral arrangements. The family wants to bury him here in the country he loved.