An Orange County man was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for an unprovoked hate-crime attack on an African American worker at a Whole Foods Market in Laguna Beach last year, prosecutors said.
Fernando Ramirez, 23, of San Clemente, was convicted last October of running up behind a 26-year-old employee and sucker punching him inside the Broadway Street grocery store the morning of June 15, according to the O.C. District Attorney’s Office.
The punch landed on the victim’s face, leaving him with a broken nose and severe damage to his front teeth, officials said.
The DA’s office says the men did not know each other.
Ramirez fled the store, and when authorities caught up with him a few blocks away he launched into a racist tirade filled with slurs against black people, prosecutors said.
Ramirez was arrested that day but released from custody until Oct. 16, when a jury found him guilty of battery and violating civil rights by force with a felony hate crime enhancement.
The defendant previously served time for a 2014 gang-related assault, the DA’s office said.
Reports of hate crimes have steadily increased in O.C. over the past five years, with the largest year-over-year rise — 11% — in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the county’s annual report.
“Hate does not belong anywhere, but hate crimes are on the rise in Orange County and it cannot and will not be tolerated,” DA Todd Spitzer said in a statement.