New Orleans Police have arrested two of their own for allegedly jumping a Latino man early Tuesday morning outside a bar. According to the victim, Jorge Gomez, the officers targeted him because they “didn’t like the way I was dressing.”
As the New Orleans Advocate reports, Gomez, 36, was wearing camouflage at the time of the altercation, which offended the officers, Gomez says.
“He asked me if I was American,” he told the paper, referring to one of his alleged attackers. “I told him yes, and he got mad because he said I was fake.”
Police Superintendent Michael Harrison wrote in a statement to the Advocate that witness statements and video taken of the altercation “clearly” show officers John Galman and Spencer Sutton, two NOPD recent hires, instigating the fight outside the mid-city Yacht Club.
The department has also started the termination process for the two officers, who had yet to complete their probationary period with NOPD.
“The swift pace at which the Public Integrity Bureau investigated this incident and the decisive actions taken by the NOPD ... by arresting the officers and starting the termination process clearly demonstrate how seriously our department views their actions,” Harrison wrote.
Galman and Sutton were off-duty at the time.
A video interview with Gomez after the attack shows the extent of his injuries. His lips and the entire left side of his face are swollen—so much so that his left eye can’t open.
“I told them I didn’t want to be harassed. I told them I was not interested in trying to engage in any conversation with them,” Gomez said of the two men, who singled him out because of his military attire.
According to CNN, Galman initiated contact with Gomez, who says he was called over and asked by one of the men if he was an American or had served in the military.
The 36-year-old, who speaks with an accent, replied that he had served for the National Guard and was an American citizen. Then one of the officers—presumably Galman—started listing his tours of duty.
“I told them I was the same way. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Honduras,” Gomez, who says he was enlisted in the National Guard, recounted to the Advocate. Galman didn’t believe him.
“He told me I was a fake American and I was not in the National Guard either,” he said, adding that he thought the attack could be considered a hate crime.
Gomez said he was jumped in the bar before the attack spilled out on the street—just a block away from his house. Initially, officers tried to pin the attack on Gomez, writes the Advocate.
In their version of the story, Gomez followed the officers in their car after they left the bar. Citing contacts within the NOPD, the Advocate writes: “[Gomez] got out of his car, the sources said, and threatened the officers, who said they attacked him in self-defense. One source said the man was brandishing a heavy walking stick as a weapon.”
According to the Advocate, Gomez uses a walking cane to help with back problems.
Galman and Sutton have been charged with simple battery—a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of six months and a $1,000 fine, but internal investigators at the NOPD may upgrade the charges, police say.