A man who was murdered early Sunday morning was defending his gay friends from a man who said “I hate you (expletive) gays, I’m going to kill you all here,” witnesses told the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Nelson Hernandez Mena, 48, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He made a court appearance Monday morning.
The victim, Juan Javier Cruz, 22, died in the shooting. Multiple witnesses confirmed that Mena followed Cruz and his friends out of Restaurante y Pupuseria Las Flores in downtown Lake Worth, Florida and threatened them for being gay.
Here is the local coverage of the incident. Video may take a bit to load.
According to one bystander, Mena told Cruz right before the shooting, “If we were in my country I’d kill all of you like rats.”
After Cruz defended his friends, Mena, who later admitted to having consumed 15 or 20 beers that night, pulled a handgun from his pants and began shooting, the report said.
Cruz was killed by the gunfire and another bystander was shot in the ankle, according to police. The bystander later told police that he had asked Mena’s friend for his phone number earlier and believed that was what made him angry.
Cruz and Mena were both with groups of friends eating and drinking inside Las Flores before the shooting, according to the PBSO report.
Mena was denied bond Monday morning by Judge Dina Keever-Agrama. The family of Cruz appeared in court with the hopes that the judge would “do the right thing,” and send Mena to jail, Cruz’s cousin Brenda Carballo said.
There apparently is a GoFundMe page established to help with funeral expenses.
The reputation the Lake Worth community has here in southern Florida is one of acceptance and pride. From a distance, gay southern Florida is Miami and Fort Lauderdale (Wilton Manors) but those of us down here know that Lake Worth is a town where many gay Floridians go to enjoy life away from the city, but still close enough to West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale to enjoy what big cities can provide.
Unfortunately, one of our allies had his life taken away from him because he was accepting of us and someone else was not.
Our thoughts are with you and your loved ones, Juan Cruz.