Man arrested in French Quarter under ‘Blue Lives Matter’ hate crime statute
UPDATE: NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble has issued the following statement in response to Delatoba’s arrest:
“After reviewing the initial facts of the case, it is clear that the responding officer incorrectly applied the law relative to a hate crime in this incident. The District Attorney’s Office will make the final determination on charges in this investigation, as it does in all investigations. In the meantime, we are in the process of training all officers and supervisors on the updated law to ensure it is applied properly moving forward.”
NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – New Orleans Police arrested a man this week under the new “Blue Lives Matter” law that makes targeting law enforcement officers and other first responders a hate crime.
Raul Delatoba, 34, is accused of shouting sexist and racist slurs at NOPD officers in the 8th District station after State Police picked him up for beating on a window at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street about 5:15 a.m. Monday.
Before the new law was enacted this year, hate crimes in Louisiana included offenses against any person because of their perceived race, age, gender, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry. The “Blue Lives Matter” provision adds police officers, firefighters and emergency medical service personnel.
State Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, drafted the bill and said it was needed to give law enforcement and first responders additional protections. Critics of the bill said it “confuses the purpose of the Hate Crimes Act” and “weakens its impact by adding more categories of people, who are already better protected under other laws.”
ACLU Louisiana maintains that the racial slurs Delatoba shouted at police officers were “deeply offensive,” but “not illegal and in fact … protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
“Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental rights that our police officers are charged with protecting,” said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “To arrest someone for what they say is contrary to the freedoms that this country stands for. Any law that infringes that freedom is a violation of our Constitutional rights.”
The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office will decide whether to pursue the hate crime charge against Delatoba. A spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office told Nola.com that the case will be reviewed and all witnesses will be interviewed before a decision is made.