CLINTON, LA (WAFB) - A Clinton, LA man has been arrested and charged with a hate crime and a misdemeanor after he was accused of pulling down the pants of a 12-year-old boy inside a gas station and making racially charged remarks on July 25, 2015.
According to the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office, the 12-year-old went inside the Good To Go convenience store on Hwy. 67 in Clinton around 5:40 p.m. to pay for gas for his grandmother when 54-year-old Ronnie Barnes approached him and asked him if he was a girl.
While asking the child if he was a girl, deputies said Barnes pulled on the child's pants, causing them to come down four or five inches. Deputies said it is not believed any part of the child's body was exposed.
"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," said Det. Kevin Garig of the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office.
Surveillance video from the convenience store also showed Barnes backing the boy into a shelf before hitting him on the back of the head. Barnes is accused of calling the child the "N" word and making other racially charged remarks following the battery.
"Someone merely saying that word in public, while it's not appropriate, it's not illegal," Garig said.
Barnes was initially issued a summons for simple battery. Investigators conducted follow up interviews with witnesses and reviewed the case with the District Attorney's Office to determine that the hate crime charge was applicable.
"Because a simple battery occurred and because it occurred because of racially motivated issues, that's what makes it a hate crime," Garig said.
"I was just hurt that something like this would happen to my child. He's only 12 years old," said the boy's mother. "I haven't slept since. My son hasn't been sleeping either. It makes me afraid for all the black children in the community."
Barnes was arrested July 28 and charged with a hate crime. He has been booked into the East Feliciana Parish jail. His bond has been set at $10,000.
Barnes now awaits trial. If convicted, he could face up to six months in jail.