A Florida man was shot and killed early Sunday after defending his gay friends from a homicidal homophobe.
Juan Javier Cruz (above) was leaving a restaurant around 1 a.m. with some friends, some of whom are gay, when they were confronted by a man who began shouting about how he hated “gays” and wanted to kill them.
According to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the group and other diners were threatened outside of Restaurante Y Pupuseria Las Flores by Nelson Hernandez Mena (above, insert).
The Honduras citizen allegedly shouted at them:
“I hate you damned gays. I’m going to kill you all here… If we were in my country, I’d kill all of you like rats.”
When the 22-year-old Cruz defended his friends, Mena reportedly pulled out a handgun from his pants and fired several shots. Cruz was killed and another man was wounded in the ankle.
Police told the Sun Sentinel that the 48-year-old faces charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and aggravated assault with a firearm. Officials stated it was too early to make a call on possible hate crime charges.
Investigators say Mena had also been out with a few friends at the restaurant that night, and was “very drunk” after drinking 15 to 20 beers.
The victim who was shot in the ankle had asked one of Mena’s friends for his phone number, and believes that’s why the shooter grew angry. Cruz’s friends also said that Mena kept looking over at their group “with an angry look.”
None of Mena’s friends had seen what happened, but reportedly heard the gunshots. The man who gave his number to Cruz’s friend said he ran back and was confronted by “a man who said his friend had been killed.”
Another one of Mena’s friends asked him what happened, to which he replied “nothing,” and “asked him to take him somewhere.”
Police arrested Mena around 10 a.m. on Sunday. He claimed that “a group of guys started attacking and threatening him” when he walked outside the Lake Worth restaurant. Mena recalled reaching for his firearm and pulling the trigger, but told officials that Cruz was not his target.
He is being held without bail at the Palm Beach County jail.