22-Year-Old Shot And Killed After Defending Gay Friends From Man Yelling Homophobic Slurs

"I hate you damned gays. I’m going to kill you all here." 

By Jaime Lutz

A Florida man was shot and killed on Sunday while defending his friends from a shooter, who was shouting anti-gay slurs, witnesses said.

Juan Javier Cruz, 22, was dining at a restaurant with his friends, some of whom are gay, at about 1 am, BuzzFeed reports.

When the restaurant closed, the group went outside and encountered Nelson Hernandez Mena, who allegedly began yelling gay slurs at the group. One of the members of Cruz’s group had asked a friend of Mena’s for his phone number earlier that night, according to the arrest report.

"I hate you damned gays. I’m going to kill you all here," Mena shouted, witnesses said.

Cruz stepped up to defend his friends, at which point Mena took a handgun from his pants and began shooting at the group, killing Cruz and striking another man in the ankle.

"He did it for no reason," Brenda Carballo, Cruz's cousin, told ABC25 News. "None of us know Nelson Hernandez."

Mena, 48, was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, and aggravated assault with a firearm. 

When Mena was arrested, he allegedly told investigators that he was “very drunk” during the incident, and "a group of guys started attacking and threatening him” outside the restaurant. He allegedly admitted to firing his gun, but he said Cruz was not his target.

The Florida State Attorney’s office told the Sun Sentinel that it hasn’t yet determined whether it will prosecute the killing as a hate crime. 

Mena is being held without bail.

[Image: Facebook, Palm Beach County Sheriff]

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