HIALEAH, Fla. - A man who crashed into a funeral home in Hialeah after being shot is now charged with a hate crime.
Hialeah officers responded after Luis Alberto Gonzalez, 50, had crashed into the Memorial Plan funeral home on Palm Avenue on Jan 2.
The officers found Gonzalez sitting in his red pickup truck. He had been shot in the head.
He claimed he had been shot by one of two black men who had just robbed him after leaving Jerry and Joe's Pizza.
Gonzalez said he then tried to run over the men who robbed him, and they opened fire and shot him in the head. He then lost control of his truck and crashed into the funeral home.
When police identified two suspects in the shooting, Andy Alexander Jr., 20, and Tarvis James, 21, on Jan. 4, the pair told a different story. According to Hialeah police, Alexander and James told investigators that they were walking in the street near Jerry and Joe's Pizza when Gonzalez started yelling racial slurs at them and telling them to leave his city. Police said Alexander and James told them that Gonzalez revved the engine of his pickup truck and accelerated toward them.
"As I heard the vehicle coming to me, I was very scared. I thought I was going to die," James said. "He tried to attack us."
The pair said they started running away and that James pulled out a .25-caliber pistol and shot at Gonzalez three times, hitting him once in the side of the head, Hialeah police said.
Alexander and James got into their SUV and drove away, police said. They didn't report the incident to police.
After an investigation, police said they spoke to Gonzalez, who they said admitted he was not robbed.
"Mr. Gonzalez finally admitted he was not the victim of a robbery," said Hialeah Police Chief Mark Overton. "The irony in this case is that the victim is now the defendant."
Hialeah police said the gun that was used in the shooting was legal.
Gonzalez was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Unit for treatment and was released Wednesday. He was arrested Tuesday on two counts of second-degree attempted murder with prejudice with the classification of a hate crime and filing a false report to police.
If convicted, Gonzalez faces up to 40 years in prison.
"Justice has been served," James said at a Hialeah police news conference Wednesday.
In the arrest form, Gonzalez told police that he was a victim during the 1980 McDuffie riots and has had resentment for black people ever since. He said he was not trying to kill the two men, just scare them.
Mark Overton said this is the first case of a reported violent hate crime in the city.
James said he and Alexander did not go to the police right away because the media had already branded them as suspects and they feared the police wouldn't believe them. Now, he has a message for others who may be suspicious of police.
"Just tell the truth, and you'll be OK," James said.
The police chief said other issues pertaining to Alexander and James will go before the state attorney's office but that they will not face any charges.
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