Man shot to death while defending gay friends from homophobic gunman
A man who was shot to death in South Florida is said to have been defending his friends from a homophobic gunman at the time of the incident.
Juan Javier Cruz, 22, was shot early on Sunday morning in Lake Worth, Florida.
Nelson Hernandez Mena, 48, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder with a firearm.
He also faces charges of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm.
Cruz, who is not gay, was reportedly defending his friends from Mena when he was shot.
It is believed that Mena followed the group of friends after they left a restaurant.
He then confronted and hurled homophobic abuse at the group.
A witness said the Mena said: “If we were in my country I’d kill all of you like rats. I hate you damned gays, I’m going to kill you all here.”
Amanda Cruz, the mother of the victim, told WPTV that Cruz was trying to protect his cousin who is gay.
She said: “[Mena] did it out of vengeance.
“He needs to pay for what he did so he won’t be racist because it does not matter if someone is gay, lesbian, whatever; we are all humans and we need to respect the decisions of others.”
“He is traumatized, he can’t sleep,” she said of her nephew, who witnessed the attack.
“When he used to come visit me, he would massage me and say I love you mom. I miss him, he’s my son, it hurts,” she added.
Mena admitted to drinking between 15 and 20 beers prior to the attack.
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He said that he remembered pulling his gun on the group and pulling the trigger, but insisted that he was not aiming for Cruz and did not mean to actually hurt anybody.
Many are calling for Mena to face a hate crime charge as well.
However, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said that it would be up to the Attorney General to add the charge.
Mena has been denied bond.
Cruz’s family have set up a GoFundMe page to pay for the funeral.