COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A North Side man accused of punching a black woman while repeatedly calling her the n-word appeared before a black judge Monday who didn't miss the chance to rub it in.
"Little did you know when they brought you here today who you'd be looking at," Cook County Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. told Louis Herrera.
Earlier in the hearing, the judge said: "It isn't 1964; you're not in Tupelo, Mississippi."
Herrera, 33, of the Rogers Park neighborhood, is accused of punching the woman outside an Ethiopian restaurant while repeatedly shouting racial slurs Sunday, police said. On Monday, he was before the judge on charges of hate crime, battery and assault.
The judge set bail at $450,000 before adding, "So the record is clear, I believe Americans can hate whomever they want to hate — but you can keep it to yourself. ... I believe you are a danger. This city has enough problems."
The attack happened about 9 p.m. Sunday in the parking lot of Ethiopian Diamond, 7537 N. Clark St.
The victims, all African-American, were sitting in a car writing out cards for the engagement party they were about to attend at the restaurant when Herrera walked up and started shouting the slurs, Assistant State's Attorney Lorraine Scaduto said during a bond hearing Monday.
According to an arrest report, Herrera repeatedly yelled "n-----" and "f--- you n------."
"I looked at my friend, like, 'Did you hear that?'" the car's driver, a 32-year-old woman who asked not to be named, said in an interview Monday.
The woman rolled down her window and yelled at Herrera to leave, she said. But instead, Herrera came over to the car and punched the woman in her head, according to police and prosecutors.
A 28-year-old passenger got out of the car and told Herrera to leave, authorities said, but Herrera tried to swing at him, too. According to Scaduto, Herrera appeared intoxicated.
"Never ever in my life" have I had something like that happen to me, the 32-year-old woman said Monday. "We were shocked, but then it was kind of obvious that he [Herrera] was a little bit drunk."
When the woman and her friend took out their phones to call 911, Herrera allegedly said, "Go ahead, call the police. They aren't going to do anything for n------," according to an arrest report.
"I was nervous," the woman said, noting she was fearful Herrera might hit her again. "I was shaking because he wasn't leaving. And he's pretty big. I'm pretty skinny, and he's a big guy."
A police report lists Herrera as 5-foot-8 and 192 pounds.
Herrera left before police arrived, the woman said, but she and her companion watched him walk into a nearby bar. When police picked up Herrera about 9:15 p.m. Sunday, he continued to shout at officers, all of whom were white, the woman said.
"He was yelling at the cops, like, 'What are you going to do? What are you going to do?' " the woman said. "The cop was like, 'I'm going to arrest you.' "
According to Scaduto, Herrera told police he was in a fight and "he hates black people."
After identifying her attacker, the woman finally made it to the engagement party two hours late — only to realize she was at the wrong Ethiopian Diamond. The party had been happening at the restaurant's sister site at 6120 N. Broadway.
On Monday, the woman said she was still more shocked than anything.
"I mean, people talk s--- sometimes when they drink, but not to that level," the woman said. "I'm just surprised that he punched me. ... For him to be so persistent the whole night? I didn't get that part."
Herrera, of the 1700 block of West Howard Street, is charged with a hate crime, battery making physical contact and simple assault. According to court records, he works as a plumber.
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