A 23-year-old man was convicted Thursday of a hate crime for sucker-punching a black Whole Foods employee in Laguna Beach.

Fernando Ramirez was convicted of a felony count of battery with serious bodily injury with a sentencing enhancement for a hate crime and a misdemeanor count of a hate crime. Ramirez, who was scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 13, could face up to eight years in prison.

Ramirez has a prior conviction for felony assault with a sentencing enhancement for gang activity, which would factor into a higher sentence for the defendant.

The victim, who started his shift at 5 a.m. at the grocery store at 283 Broadway, was on a lunch break about 10 a.m. June 15, when Ramirez walked up from behind, got his attention and then punched him in the face as he turned around, according to a trial brief from Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Chrisopoulos.

The victim suffered a broken nose and nerve damage to his two front teeth, which required removal, according to the prosecutor.

Ramirez was caught running from the attack. After he was placed in the back of the squad car, he called the victim a racial epithet, according to the prosecutor.

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