A Louisiana man could spend up to six months in jail after he was charged with attacking a 12-year-old black child over the weekend.
The 12-year-old boy's mother told WAFB that she sent her son into the Good To Go convenience store in Clinton on Saturday to pay for gas when 54-year-old Ronnie Barnes targeted him because of his dreadlocks.
According to East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office, Barnes asked if the boy was a girl and then pulled down the child's pants.
Surveillance video shows Barnes backing the boy into a shelf after pulling down his pants. Investigators accused him of using the N-word and then hitting the child in the head.
Barnes was initially charged with simple battery, but the District Attorney's Office upgraded the charge to a hate crime after investigators conducted additional interviews.
"The sheriff takes race issues very seriously, and if someone you know commits a crime against someone because of their color, because of their sexual orientation, because of any reason, then we are going to do our best to fully investigate it," East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office Det. Kevin Garig explained to WAFB.
"Because a simple battery occurred and because it occurred because of racially motivated issues, that's what makes it a hate crime," he added.
Garig noted that just calling a child the N-word was not a crime.
The boy's mother said that the incident made her worry for all of the children in the community.
"I haven't slept since. My son hasn't been sleeping either," she said. "We can't even be safe in a store to pay for gas. It makes me afraid for all the black children in the community."
Watch the video below from WAFB, broadcast July 29, 2015.