Sheriff’s deputies of East Feliciana Parish and the town of Clinton, Louisiana, arrested a man who allegedly made racial remarks and tried to pull down the pants of a 12-year-old boy.
Ronnie Barnes, 54, saw the boy, who is black, waiting to pay for his grandmother’s gas at the Good to Go convenience store in Clinton on July 25, according to WAFB News. Barnes allegedly approached the child and asked him if he was a girl. While asking, Barnes pulled on the child’s pants, making them come down a few inches but not exposing him, surveillance footage confirms.
“It shows he did try to pull the pants down,” Det. Kevin Garig of the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office said. “They didn’t come down. Also it shows that toward the end of the encounter, he slapped the boy in the back of the head as he walked off.”
The footage also appears to show Barnes backing the boy into a shelf before hitting him, WAFB reports.
The victim accused Barnes of using racial slurs, such as the N-word and other racist remarks after the alleged battery.
“Someone merely saying that word in public, while it’s not appropriate, it’s not illegal,” Garig said.
The police were called within minutes. Barnes was issued a summons for simple battery, but investigators followed up by interviewing witnesses and looked the case over with the District Attorney’s Office to determine if Barnes could be charged with a hate crime.
"The sheriff takes race issues very seriously, and if someone you know commits a crime against someone because of their color, because of their sexual orientation, because of any reason, then we are going to do our best to fully investigate it," Garig said.
“We determined it met the criteria in the law for a hate crime,” Garig added. “Because a simple battery occurred and because it occurred because of racially motivated issues, that’s what makes it a hate crime.".
The investigation was concluded and Barnes was arrested on July 28. He was booked into the East Feliciana Parish jail with a misdemeanor-level hate crime, reports The Advocate.
Barnes’ bail has been set at $10,000 and he is now awaiting trial. If he is convicted he could face six months behind bars.
The victim’s mother spoke out about the attack, saying, “I was just hurt that something like this would happen to my child."
"He’s only 12 years old,” she told WAFB. “It makes me afraid for all the black children in the community.”
Photo credit: West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office via WSFA