Donald Dickerson (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -
He was in the "wrong neighborhood" is just one reason a man gave as to why he was punched in the face. His wife and daughter were also hit.
Police arrested one man and ticketed two others. They are all accused of punching the family.
At the corner of Plank Road and Scenic Highway in Baton Rouge sits a Chevron gas station. It's off I-110 near Memorial Stadium. A family stopped there to get gas Sunday around 10 p.m.
"Upon our arrival, we located three victims who were attacked in the parking lot," said Cpl. Tommy Stubbs, spokesperson for the Baton Rouge Police Department.
The owners of the gas station did not want to comment on camera, but said there's a wide variety of customers in and out of the store in the daytime. At night, though, it's not the safest of places, especially with the area having some of the highest crime in the city.
"It was a small scene but it got to be a big scene after the fight broke out and it was a big scene when the police came," said Keisha Henderson, a witness.
Stubbs said a man wearing a pink shirt was in line trying to pay for gas when Donald Dickerson, 41, started making fun of him, leading to an argument.
"The defendant (Dickerson) approached the white male victim," the police report stated.
It went on to read, "the defendant told him he was in the wrong neighborhood and he was not going to make it out." The victim said that's when he "was punched and knocked to the ground."
At this time, his wife got out of the car and ran to help her husband. The victim said, "he continued to struggle with the defendant and was eventually knocked unconscious, which later he awoke in the hospital."
His wife told police, "after running to help her husband, she remembers falling to the ground and (being) knocked unconscious."
According to a close family friend, that's when the couple's teenage daughter got out of the car to check on her parents and, "observed a female punch her mother in the face, when her mother then fell to the concrete, hitting her head on the surface."
The daughter was also punched in the face.
"There were only three suspects but there were multiple people in the parking lot," said Stubbs.
Of those three, Dickerson was arrested and charged with second-degree battery. The other two suspects, Devin Bessye, 24, and Ashley Simmons, 22, were released on site after police wrote them each a summons for simple battery.
When police were questioned about why all three defendants were not charged with felony second degree battery, Stubbs responded, "Because you have to have disfigurement for a second-degree battery charge, and only one victim had disfigurement and he was attacked by the one suspect that we booked."
However, Louisiana law defines second-degree battery as "bodily injury which involves unconsciousness, extreme physical pain or protracted and obvious disfigurement."
The victim suffered "a broken eye socket, broken nose, and several lacerations to the face," and his wife was knocked unconscious.
"I feel that's racist," said Henderson.
As to why officers only charged one suspect with second-degree battery, police said under former Police Chief Dewayne White, officers were told to take all offenders to prison. Towards the end of his term, the policy changed and officers were told to use discretion. That's the policy in place now.
As to whether this falls under a hate crime, police said early reports show it does not meet the statute but remains under investigation.
All three defendants, Dickerson, Bessye and Simmons, have had run-ins with the law prior to Sunday's incident.