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Mother reacts to possible hate crime against child

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CLINTON - Sheriff's deputies charged an East Feliciana Parish man with a hate crime after investigators said he pulled down the pants of a 12-year old child and called him a racial slur in public.

Deputies charged 54-year-old Ronnie Barnes with misdemeanor simple battery on Saturday. Tuesday, he was charged with a misdemeanor hate crime after the incident at a gas station in Clinton.

Jarvis Cody Smith's mother said her son was inside the station paying for gas when the unprovoked attack occurred. She contacted investigators and said while her son was in the store, Barnes approached him and asked if he was a girl. The mother said Barnes then yanked the boy's pants down and called him a racial slur, then made other racial remarks.

"It's painful, and it hurts," the boy's mother, Jeania Jackson said.

The video was captured on the store's surveillance camera system.  It clearly shows some sort of altercation where a man pulls the pants down of the boy on the video.  Deputies identified the man in the video as Barnes. 

The video was the focus of a Tuesday evening report on WBRZ News 2 at 10:00.  Watch the report HERE.

Earlier in the day, Jackson didn't mind having her 12-year old son identified. She said there has been a large outpouring of support for him on social media. There's even a hashtag #justiceforcody.

"The first night this happened, he didn't sleep," Jackson said. "[Monday] was the first day going back to football practice."

There has been no public response from Barnes. 

"Get back, get back," a man said at Barnes' lumber business near Norwood as the Investigative Unit went to ask questions.

Detectives initially charged Barnes with simple battery, then added the hate crime charge Tuesday after interviewing witnesses and checking the surveillance footage. The footage appeared to corroborate the victim's story, according to Detective Kevin Garig with the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office.

"Hate crime is a separate charge," Garig said.

When the investigation first began, Jackson said it took two hours for a report to be taken. The Sheriff's Office blamed the delay on bad weather, as resources were out dealing with traffic issues after a number of trees fell during the storm. Jackson believes her complaint isn't being taken seriously.

"Had it been a 12-year old white boy and a black man approaching him, he would have been locked up," Jackson said.

The Sheriff's Office said the complaint is being taken seriously.

"We do not take these matters lightly," Garig said. "It doesn't matter who you are or what your race is or sexual orientation. If you commit a crime, we will prosecute you."

State Police are also investigating. Detectives plan to interview the boy and review the work of the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office.

Click here to see the security footage video.

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