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22-year-old man killed defending gay friends from ‘homophobic’ attacker

By Will Stroude

A 22-year-old man from Florida was killed defending his gay friends from a ‘homophobic’ attacker who allegedly hurled anti-gay abuse at the group before shooting him dead.

Juan Javier Cruz was killed out Restaurante Y Pupuseria Las Flores in Lake Worth after he and his friends were confronted by a man who launched a tirade of homophobic abuse at the group.

Witnesses claim that the man told Cruz’s friends “If we were in my country I’d kill all of you rats,” before saying “I hate you damned gays. I’m going to kill you all here.”

After Juan stepped in to defend his friends, the attacker allegedly drew a handgun and fired several shots.

Juan’s cousin, Pedro Cruz, said he believed the gunman was aiming for him, but says his cousin pushed him out the way before being struck instead. He died at the scene.

Police said that a suspect, Nelson Hernandez Mena, 48, has been arrested and is currently being held at Palm Beach County jail on murder charges. Prosecutors are reportedly still considering whether to file additional hate crime charges against him.

A vigil for Juan was held on Monday (August 7), with relatives leaving flowers and candles at the spot where he died a hero.

The Cruz family has established a GoFundMe page to raise money for Juan’s funeral expenses.

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