Verdict reached in hate crime trial

Luis Alberto Gonzalez found guilty of aggravated assault


MIAMI – Jurors reached a verdict in the trial of a man charged with a hate crime after he crashed into a funeral home in Hialeah and was shot in the head.

On Thursday, jurors found Luis Alberto Gonzalez guilty of two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with prejudice. He was originally charged with second-degree attempted murder with prejudice with the classification of a hate crime.

Police said on Jan. 2, 2012, Gonzalez, 50, yelled racial slurs at two men, Andy Alexander Jr., 20, and Tarvis James, 21, and told 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.

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.

Gonzalez originally told police he had been shot by one of two black men who had just robbed him after leaving Jerry and Joe's Pizza, police say. 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 Memorial Plan funeral home on Palm Avenue.

After an investigation, police said they spoke to Gonzalez, who they said admitted he was not robbed.

Hialeah police said the gun that was used in the shooting was legal.

Gonzalez faces up to 60 years in prison for each count. He's scheduled to be sentenced May 14.

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.

Hialeah Police Chief Mark Overton said it was 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 okay," James said.