A South Florida man died defending friends from a man hurling homophobic threats, according to local media reports. Authorities are holding the accused killer without bond while the victim's family raises money for funeral costs.
Juan Cruz was shot and killed outside Las Flores, a Salvadorean restaurant in Lake Worth, around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies arrested Nelson Hernandez Mena on a charge of first-degree murder. Now media report that Hernandez Mena made threatening statements about the gay men in Cruz's party.
"If we were in my country I'd kill all of you like rats," one witness quoted Hernandez Mena as saying, according to local TV station WPEC. Another witness quoted the accused stating, "I hate you damned gays, I'm going to kill you all here."
Investigators concluded that Cruz rushed to defend his friends when Hernandez Mena pulled out a gun, then shot and killed Cruz. ThePalm Beach Postreports another man was shot in the ankle.
It's unclear from initial media reports whether Cruz was gay, but investigators indicate in reports he was defending the other men in his group.
According to the Post, one witness reported that a man in Cruz's party had asked for a phone number from a man in Hernandez Mena's party, which may have incited his anger. Hernandez-Mena told police he consumed "15 or 20" beers that night.
A judge Monday denied Hernandez-Mena bond.
A GoFundMe page was set up by Nancy Benitez to raise money for Cruz's funeral, with a goal of $12,000 set. As of Monday evening, $480 had been raised.