Fernando Ramirez, 23, of San Clemente was sentenced to six years in prison for a hate-crime attack in Laguna Beach. (Orange County district attorney’s office)

By SEAN EMERY | [email protected] | Orange County Register PUBLISHED: January 10, 2020

A San Clemente man was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for an unprovoked attack on an African American employee at a Laguna Beach grocery store.

Fernando Ramirez, 23, was found guilty last year of one felony count of battery with serious bodily injury, a misdemeanor charge of violating civil rights by force and a felony hate crime enhancement.

On June 15, the victim, a 26-year-old man,was working at a Whole Foods Market when Ramirez ran up behind the employee and sucker-punched him.

The employee, who did not know Ramirez, suffered a broken nose and severe damage to two front teeth, according to the DA’s office.

According to prosecutors, Ramirez after his arrest “went on a rant filled with racial epithets that targeted African Americans.”

“Hate does not belong anywhere, but hate crimes are on the rise in Orange County and it cannot and will not be tolerated,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer in a written statement following Ramirez’s sentencing. “The Orange County District Attorney’s Office will continue to prosecute crimes motivated by hate to the fullest extent of the law.”

Ramirez previously was sentenced to two years in state prison for a gang-related assault in 2014, prosecutors said.

The number of hate crimes in Orange County has increased in each of the last four years, according to a county report released last year.

In 2018, the last year covered by the most recent Hate Crime Report released by the Orange County Human Relations Commission, there were 67 hate crimes, an 11 percent increase over the previous year. There were also 165 hate incidents, defined by the commission as non-criminal acts that express hate.

The report found that 42 percent of the hate crimes reported in the county in 2018 were motivated by “the target’s race, ethnicity and/or national origin,” while 34 percent were motivated by religious intolerance.