BATON ROUGE – The Mother’s Day 2013 beating of a St. Francisville man outside a north Baton Rouge gas station is unfortunate, but not the fault of gas companies that provide fuel to the gas station, a Louisiana Oil & Gas Association (LOGA) spokesman said in a recent interview.
"While this is an unfortunate case, we at LOGA represent the independent operators and service companies that are actually drilling the wells that produce oil and natural gas," Ragan Dickens, LOGA North Louisiana director and communications director, said in a Louisiana Record interview. "Gasoline station security would be a case-by-case issue of the station owners."
A district court judge considering the civil lawsuit filed in the case does not see it that way.
Judge Janice Clark of the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge on Monday denied a request by two gasoline distributors to be dismissed from the civil suit filed in the case.
An attorney for Chevron and Lard Oil Co. Inc. argued that neither company could have foreseen the criminal activity that night at Stadium Chevron on Scenic Highway, at the foot of Plank Road.
On May 12, 2013, David Ray III was beaten into unconsciousness in front of his wife and daughter at the Baton Rouge gas station for being in "the wrong neighborhood." Ray suffered facial fractures; damage to his eye socket, which required surgery; a broken nose; a concussion; and other injuries. His wife and daughter, 14 at the time, also were injured, according to various police reports and court records.
A six-member East Baton Rouge Parish jury on June 25 found Donald Ray Dickerson guilty of second-degree battery.
Dickerson's sentencing has been repeatedly postponed, most recently in January to allow time for the court to hear arguments about whether he's a habitual offender, which could mean a life sentence.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hiller Moore has said Dickerson's criminal record includes convictions for purse snatching, armed robbery, a federal gun charge and felony sex offense. That would make Dickerson's second-degree battery conviction in this case his fifth offense.
A hearing over whether Dickerson is a habitual offender is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. April 21 with sentencing expected the same day.
The beating initially drew nationwide attention as possibly being racially motivated because the Ray family is white. Dickerson is not, and Moore said at the time he briefly considered pursuing the case as a hate crime. Moore said at the time he decided against that strategy after conferring with the Ray family and both sides downplayed race as a factor during Dickerson's trial.
Race also is not mentioned in the civil suit Ray filed in the 19th Judicial District Court.
During Monday's hearing in Ray's civil suit, when Clark considered the requests from Chevron and Lard Oil to be dismissed from the case, an attorney who represents both companies said neither were aware of crime statistics for that area. After a brief hearing, Clark ruled from the bench that the state of Louisiana long has designated the 70805 ZIP code, where the gas station is located, as a high-crime area.
Clark allowed the companies five days to seek review of her ruling in a higher court, and it is not clear if that will happen. If it doesn't, then the two companies will remain in the case when it goes before a jury.
Ray's attorney and the attorney representing the two gasoline distributors did not respond to requests for comment.