A man who allegedly beat a black bystander in a parking lot after stealing a bottle of wine from a Circle K food store has been booked with a hate crime, after he told New Orleans police he would beat others and boasted about a swastika tattoo on his arm.
The fight erupted in a parking lot in the 700 block of Howard Avenue when 33-year-old JR Wilson, who is white, grabbed a bottle of wine in the convenience store and walked out without paying around midnight Sunday.
Wilson got into a shouting match outside the store with a black man, and the shouting turned into a fight. Wilson began kicking and stomping on the head of the victim, who had fallen to the ground, police said.
The victim lost consciousness. Wilson fled with the bottle but then returned — wine still in hand — as paramedics treated the injured man, police said in court records.
A witness identified Wilson as the shoplifter and attacker, and police put him in the back of a patrol cruiser, the records show.
There, an officer asked Wilson, “What happened with you and the other guy outside?” He said Wilson replied, “I don’t know what you are talking about. There will be a lot more of them. I have a swastika on my arm.”
The swastika symbol is closely associated with fascist Nazi Germany and with white supremacists. So, besides misdemeanor counts of theft, battery and illegal possession of stolen things, police booked Wilson with a hate crime.
Misdemeanor theft, battery and illegal possession of stolen things each carry up to six months in prison. Violating Louisiana’s hate crime law would mean a maximum six-month sentence running consecutively to any other punishment he may receive for the other allegations.
It is relatively uncommon to see police accuse suspects of a hate crime. Louisiana law defines that offense as targeting a person in certain property crimes or violent crimes based on a victim's race, age, gender or sexual orientation — perceived or actual.
A court form reporting basic facts about Wilson lists the address of a rehabilitation center in Jefferson as his home. His police photo suggests he has tattoos on his chest and left shoulder.
Staff writer Matt Sledge contributed to this report.