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Prosecutors mull charges in Baton Rouge gas station confrontation

Prosecutors reportedly are mulling over several issues surrounding allegations of an assault at a gas station on Scenic Highway that was reported Sunday night. Baton Rouge police arrested a 41-year-old man on suspicion of battery. Two other people were issued summonses on simple battery related to the alleged confrontation.

Authorities say that the incident began after a family pulled into the gas station around 11:00 Sunday evening. The father reportedly was wearing a pink shirt, and a witness says that the 41-year-old accused of felony battery made some sort of joke about the man's pink shirt, according to The Advocate. The witness says that the man in the pink short responded, "Do you feel offended by my shirt?" according to the news report. The witness says that the incident escalated over time.

However, authorities claim that the 41-year-old approached the man as he was waiting to pay for his gas and threatened that the family had chosen the wrong neighborhood to buy gas. Police claim that the 41-year-old attacked the man, while two other patrons at the gas station struck the man’s wife and 14-year-old daughter. The father reportedly was knocked unconscious and suffered several injuries, including a broken eye socket and broken nose. The mother and daughter also reportedly suffered injuries.

Prosecutors reportedly are considering whether or not to elevate the felony battery charges against the 41-year-old. Authorities are considering whether to file the charges as a hate crime. The 41-year-old is black and the family is white. Prosecutors are looking into whether they think the incident was racially motivated, according to the Advocate.

In addition to the possible hate crime issue, prosecutors reportedly are mulling over whether to prosecute the man as a habitual offender. Authorities claim that the man has a criminal history and was recently released from federal prison. Prosecutors say that they have also contacted federal officials to determine if the government is interested in pursuing any federal criminal charges.

Generally, a person convicted of a hate crime in Louisiana can face a lengthier prison sentence of prosecutors can prove the offense was motivated by bias. A person prosecuted as a habitual offender can face a sentence of life in prison.

The 41-year-old reportedly is in custody. Prosecutors added a charge against the man Wednesday for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender. The man’s bail was increased Wednesday from $50,000 to $55,000.

Source: The Advocate, “Couple attacked while getting gas in ‘wrong neighborhood’,” Jim Mustian, May 15, 2013; The Advocate, “DA mulls prosecuting BR attack as ‘hate crime’," Jim Mustian, May 16, 2013

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