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with Mike Mayo

After vandalism with racist rant, Fat Boyz Barbecue owner preaches love

Fat Boyz Barbecue in Deerfield Beach was vandalized and burglarized earlier this week, and owner Jarael Holston-Jones says the broken windows and ransacked dining room were merely a prelude to the worst part of the incident.

Holston-Jones says he was alerted to the break-in by security firm ADT about 2 a.m. Monday and the police requested his presence, and when he arrived on scene a handcuffed suspect unleashed a racist tirade that saddened and shook him.

“Our windows were smashed. There was glass everywhere. Tables and chairs were upside down. There were forks and napkins all over the place,” Holston-Jones says. “The cops had two guys apprehended, and they appeared to be intoxicated. There were beer cans and bottles all around.” The restaurant does not serve beer.

Holston-Jones says Broward Sheriff’s deputies and paramedics were assessing whether one suspect needed to go to the hospital because of cuts on his face when the man, whom Holston-Jones describes as in his 40s, saw him and “just started going off.”

“I’ve never heard such vile things,” says Holston-Jones, a U.S. Army veteran and former church pastor. “He said, ‘You n-----, what gives you the right to think you can be here?’ You n------ are the scum of the earth. Get out of our country!”

Holston-Jones, who is black, grew up in Pompano Beach and graduated from Blanche Ely High. He says the two suspects were white, including an older man in his late 50s, who kept quiet. “They may have been homeless,” Holston-Jones says. He says the younger man kept ranting for 10 minutes until a deputy told the suspect to be quiet and said, “Get them out of here.”

“In talking with one of the detectives, he said the guy was angry because there’s a black guy dating his sister and he thought I was the guy,” Holston-Jones says.

According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Bruce Hodgeson, 43, of West Palm Beach, was arrested on a charge of armed burglary on a dwelling and Michael Bray, 58, of Fort Lauderdale, was taken into custody on an arrest warrant related to a past cocaine charge. They remain in the Broward Main Jail. The arrest report does not mention racial slurs, but parts were redacted. A supplemental report mentioned in the arrest report was not immediately available, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said. Deputy Gordon Black’s arrest report says Hodgeson was found sleeping outside the damaged restaurant surrounded by plastic utensils and a roll of paper towels. Hodgeson was “face down” and had blood on his arms and face when police arrived, the arrest report says.

“I don’t hate him,” Holston-Jones says. “You don’t fight hate with hate. You fight hate with love. If he was here, I’d give him a meal right now.”

Fat Boyz Barbecue, at 204 S. Powerline Road, reopened Tuesday after repairing $2,500 in damages, including broken windows and damaged furnishings. Holston-Jones says nothing was taken from the store and that the men apparently broke the windows with heavy umbrella bases from the patio.

Holston-Jones posted a photo from the incident on the restaurant’s Instagram account and wrote, “They broke our windows with hate but they won’t break our spirit or passion.” He says customers “brought me to tears” with an outpouring of support Tuesday, offering donations to help pay for damages, which Holston-Jones refused. He says the window-repair company gave the restaurant a discount.

Holston-Jones and wife Yolanda opened Fat Boyz Barbecue a year ago after operating a successful fleet of food trucks. The restaurant has been embraced by customers, and the couple will soon open a second location in Coral Springs.

Holston-Jones says he does not know if the suspect will be charged with a hate crime. “I really don’t think it matters,” Holston-Jones says. “Charging him with a hate crime won’t change his heart. I’d tell him there’s a better way to live your life. He just needs to look into his heart and character and find some reconciliation.”

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail.

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