Family Attacked For Being In The “Wrong Neighborhood”

Baton Rouge, LA – Currently an assault case in Baton Rouge is being investigated as to whether or not it meets the statute of being classified as a hate crime.

Hate crimes occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his/her perceived association to a certain social group, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ethnicity/nationality.

The term itself defines a bias-motivated intentional act of violence such as conveying threatening messages and statements, or committing a physical assault that leads to injury or death – predicated simply on the basis of the personal characteristics of the victim.

On Sunday, a Caucasian family of three – a man, 36, his wife, 41, and their 14-year-old daughter, who are not being named in reports – stopped by a Chevron gas station at the corner of Plank Road and Scenic Highway off I-110 near Memorial Stadium, in Baton Rouge around 10 pm.

Based on statements provided by the victims, who were attacked by a trio of people as they patronized the gas station, they were assaulted simply because they were in the “wrong neighborhood,” and were told they were “not going to make it out.” At least that is what one of the suspects, 41-year-old Donald Dickerson, allegedly told the unnamed man before striking him and rendering him unconscious, according to KSLA.

The wife and daughter were also injured in the altercation, assailed upon by two other perpetrators who were later identified as Devin Bessye (some reports spell it Bessey), 24, and Ashley Simmons, 22. All three – Dickerson, Bessye, and Simmons – have had prior run-ins with the law. Bessye and Simmons were charged with simple battery.

The male victim was beaten so severely – suffering a broken eye socket, broken nose, and several lacerations to the face – he required medical attention. For his violent transgression, Dickerson who had been recently released from federal prison, and admitted to the attack at the gas station, was arrested, booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, and charged with felony second degree battery.

According to Eunicetoday, the offender had been sentenced in 2001 to a 10 year term for robbing two women at gunpoint. On Wednesday, May 15 a judge increased the bond for Dickerson to $55,000 after he was given an additional charge of failing to register as a sex offender and update a new address with authorities.

Preceding the attack, the male victim had been in line paying for gas when Dickerson started making teasing him. Dickerson made the threatening statement and then punched and knocked the other man to the ground and continued to beat him.

When the victim’s wife emerged from the vehicle to help her husband she too was attacked and knocked out by a second suspect. The couple’s teenage daughter told authorities she observed a female punch her mother in the face. The daughter was also hit.

Cooperative witnesses managed to provide enough details to identify the three black suspects who fled the scene before police arrived.

As to whether this case falls under a hate crime, police do not feel there is sufficient probable cause to meet the statute, based on preliminary reports. In an interview with Lieutenant Don Kelly, a spokesman for Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD), he clarified that both the local and federal authorities are still assessing the evidence as to whether or not they feel the charges should be classified as a hate crime. Witness statements and surveillance at the gas station are being reviewed to piece together the events as they unfolded.

Do you think the situation warrants a more thorough investigation? Do you think the circumstances fit the conditions of a hate crime? Do you feel the assault was racially motivated?

[Image Donald Dickerson Mugshot]