A third-degree assault charge against Felix Tolentino of Grand Island has been elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony because he is accused of using a racial slur against the victim.
Tolentino, 36, was charged with assault-third degree/hate crime, which is a Class 4 felony, in Hall County Court last Wednesday.
He is accused of assaulting Erick Covarrubias in the parking lot of Snak Shak, 715 S. Locust, the night of May 31. The two men were engaged in a physical fight.
The charge was elevated to a felony because the assault was discrimination-based, said Capt. Dean Elliott of the Grand Island Police Department. Officers heard the defendant using Hispanic racial slurs toward the victim during the fight, Elliott said.
If a person uses a slur against another without violence, it would be considered disturbing the peace at worst, he said. But certain crimes are enhanced to a felony when they are discrimination-based. Assault is one of those crimes.
Maximum penalties for a Class 4 felony are five years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine or both.
Tolentino, who lives at 509 S. Cedar St., was released on a personal recognizance bond.
His preliminary hearing will be at 11 a.m. July 7.