A San Bernardino County judge has expressed doubt about the mental competence of a Fontana man accused of a hate crime in the fatal baseball-bat beating of a 54-year-old grandfather in Rialto this week.
Police say Jeremiah Bell, 22, went out Sunday looking to attack “anybody who wasn’t black.” On a residential street just a short walk from his apartment, they say, Bell, who is black, found Armando Barron, who is Latino, walking home from the grocery store, and attacked him about 2:30 p.m.
Barron died of his injuries at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center on Thursday, the same day that Bell appeared in court to be arraigned on attempted murder charges with an enhancement for use of a deadly weapon. He was also charged with a hate crime.
During the hearing, Superior Court Judge Jon D. Ferguson ordered the proceedings delayed until a court-appointed psychiatrist could evaluate Bell, court minutes show. He had pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors plan to file murder charges against Bell once reports confirming Barron’s death are submitted, a district attorney’s spokesman said.
Bell is due back in court June 9.
Rialto Police Det. Sgt. Paul Stella said he had no information indicating Bell may have been mentally incompetent.
Javier Hernandez, who lives across the street from where the attack happened, said he had just gotten home Sunday with his 6-year-old daughter when she told him she saw a man hitting someone.
Hernandez turned and saw the beating. He shouted “Hey,” he said, and the aggressor tossed his bat and ran.
Barron was left bloody and dazed, Hernandez said. Police said he was struck several times on the head with the bat.
Another neighbor caught the attack on a home security camera, which helped police identify the suspect.
Barron’s family has launched an online campaign to raise funds for his medical and funeral expenses.
“Our father was a loving and noble person, who was tragically assaulted based on the color of his skin,” they say on the website. “He taught us to be loving and see beyond color.”
Barron was on his way home to watch soccer when he was attacked, the family said in the post.
People often pass through the neighborhood, which straddles the border between Fontana and Rialto, on their way to and from the grocery store, residents said. Occasionally, someone will leave a stolen car on the street or have a loud argument. But for the most part, they said, it’s a quiet place that many neighbors have called home for decades.
“For whatever reason,” said resident Ron Carty, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, some people “get up in the morning and decide they’re going to do something to someone.”
Bell was arrested at his Fontana apartment Monday and is being held on $1-million bail.