“Oh great ... f*@$ing faggots,” Joseph Menard Jr. allegedly said in disgust as a group of four openly gay Lafayette men took their seats inside the Grand Theater for a Sunday matinee of the new Barbra Streisand film.
Despite having his wife and child seated next to him, Menard refused to stop, says Walt Jamison, one of the four men targeted during the altercation.
Jamison tells The IND that within minutes the situation evolved from being just a verbal altercation incited by an extreme homophobe to a physical assault against two men because of their sexuality.
After throwing an open-handed sucker-punch to the back of Jamison's partner's head, Menard then took a swing at Jamison, but only grazed his face, causing his glasses to fly off and land on the bottom level of the stadium-seated theater.
Though almost identical to Jamison’s retelling of the incident, here’s how the arrest affidavit filed by Lafayette Police details the situation:
[Menard] was involved in a verbal altercation in the Grand Theater with subjects regarding their sexual preference. Confrontation became physical at which time [Menard] slapped one of the subjects in the back of the head and pushed the other male in the face with an open hand, causing his glasses to fall off of his face.
Menard, with his wife and child in tow, attempted to flee the scene, and even made it to their family vehicle, but were stopped short while still in the movie theater parking lot.
According to Jamison’s side of the story, as well as the arrest affidavit filed by Lafayette Police officer Shannon Brasseaux, it seems Menard’s actions inside the theater would constitute what state law deems a hate crime.
But that was not the case, and though Menard was booked, it was only for two counts of simple battery.
|Joseph Menard Jr.|
The reason, Lafayette Police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton tells The IND, is because Menard’s actions did not fully meet all the criteria required by state law to be deemed a hate crime.
“The arrest affidavit does insinuate that it meets all the requirements,” says Mouton. “But the media doesn’t have the full report. I’ve read the entire report, and no, it doesn’t meet all the requirements. We can’t release that report because this is still an ongoing investigation.”
Mouton says that based on the full report of Sunday’s assault, the one not available for public viewing, officer Brasseaux did his due diligence in not charging Menard with a hate crime.
“An officer can only charge based on the facts, and without eye witnessing the incident, he has to deal with a victim that may say one thing and a suspect saying something else,” says Mouton. “And based on the statements the officer received, he felt all the elements didn’t match up to charge (Menard) with a hate crime. Now, this may get to the prosecutors and they may increase the charges.”
Click here to read how Louisiana law defines what is and isn't a crime of hate.