A Donaldsonville man was arrested and booked with a hate crime for allegedly telling a woman to "go back to Mexico," then pushing her mother and fighting her father, a U.S. Marine.
The incident occurred Friday within Boots Etc., a factory-direct western wear store on Highway 30 in Gonzales, according to a news release from the Gonzales Police Department.
Robert Ray, 60, is accused of approaching the 19-year-old daughter of the Latino family while shopping and making the comment. Ray is originally from Arkansas and has been working in the area for two years, police said.
After the comment, the woman's mother became visibly upset and approached Ray. She told him that was "not a nice thing to say," at which point he allegedly pushed her to the ground.
The woman's husband then became involved in the altercation. Ray punched the father in the face and then hit him with a boot, escalating the fight into a brawl that caused damage to the rear of the store, police said.
Ray was booked into Ascension Parish Jail after the incident on one count of hate crime, two counts of simple battery and a single count of criminal damage to property.
Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson said in a news release that he won't tolerate the kinds of behavior Ray directed toward the Latino family in the boot store on Friday.
“Not in my city, and not on my watch, will the City of Gonzales Police Department ever tolerate actions taken against people based upon their race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry," the city's police chief said.
Jackson said Ray's comments "clearly fall under" the legal description of what constitutes a hate crime.
"It shall be unlawful for any person to select the victim ... because of actual or perceived race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry of that person, according to Louisiana Revised Statute 14:107.2 he wrote.
It was unclear on Saturday if a bond has been set for Ray. Efforts to reach the family involved in the encounter with Ray at the store were unsuccessful.