New Orleans Police Officers John Galmon, 26, and Spencer Sutton, 24, may face hate crime charges after they allegedly beat a Latino man outside of the Mid-City Yacht Club, a local sports bar. According to Vice, the alleged altercation took place Tuesday morning after the pair questioned the man’s military record and called him a “fake American.” Galmon and Sutton are both rookie cops; neither had completed their probationary period and were not on duty at the time of the incident.
Jorge Gomez, 39, was beaten so severely that he was sent to the hospital. Even after being treated at the hospital, Gomez “still had cuts, bruises, scabs and swelling on his face,” according to the New Orleans Advocate. Gomez spoke to the Advocate about the incident and said the altercation occurred after the policemen questioned him about his ethnicity and his clothing, which happened to be camouflage.
“He told me I was a fake American. And that I wasn’t in the National Guard, either. I told him I served a tour of duty in Iraq,” Gomez said, but he did not say whether Sutton or Galmon interrogated him initially.
Gomez is Honduran-American. He’d been born in America, but spent most of his life in Honduras. As an adult, he returned to America and settled in New Orleans. Though he tried to tell the police officers that he was American, the police officers began to beat him. When he tried to walk away, they continued their assault, beating him and allegedly threatening him.
“You’re going to die,” they said.
Though both officers were arrested, they were only charged with “simple battery.” On Wednesday, they both pleaded not guilty. Sutton stated that he has “no specific memory” of the incident. Both Galmon and Sutton have been fired.
The New Orleans Police Department said that, in conjunction with the FBI and the Greater New Orleans Civil Rights Task Force, it was “actively looking into whether this case meets the elements of a potential civil rights violation.”
On Tuesday, Police Superintendent Michael Harrison stated they are investigating the beating as a hate crime after assessing eyewitness statements and reviewing multiple videos of the incident, which “clearly demonstrate that our officers were the aggressors in this incident.”
“We wanted to make sure citizens know that the behavior that you saw is not and never will be tolerated. We took very decisive and strong action against them with the evidence that was brought to us,” said Harrison.