News Column

Hackman Slaps Man; All Is Forgiven?

Nov. 1, 2012

Nico Roesler


Actor Gene Hackman and the homeless man he slapped on a downtown Santa Fe street this week weren't total strangers, according to police reports released Wednesday that provide new details on the incident.

Both told officers that the 82-year-old film star in the last several years had provided clothes, money and rides to Bruce Becker, 63, who Hackman said has a campsite on Artist Road.

However, when Becker approached Hackman and his wife while they were walking on Marcy Street near Washington Avenue, Hackman refused and told him to get a job, according to the reports.

Hackman, a longtime resident of the Santa Fe area, said Becker became angry, called him and his wife a vulgar name and took a step toward the couple before Hackman struck him in the side of the head with an open hand.

Becker admitted to asking for money, at which point Becker claimed Hackman called him "worthless."

Becker told police that he responded, "Gene, you are just another Clint Eastwood, you are nothing but an empty chair," an apparent reference to Eastwood's appearance at this summer's Republican National Convention with an empty chair supposedly representing President Barack Obama.

Sgt. Kyle Zuments and Officer John DeBaca wrote that they responded to a 1:30 p.m. call from Becker, who reported he had been battered by Hackman. Hackman had gotten into his car with his wife, Betsy Hackman, and was about to drive off. Upon seeing police, the Hackmans approached officers to discuss the incident, according to the police reports.

Hackman and his wife told police they had felt threatened by Becker, who was swinging a bag of canned goods.

Becker, described in police reports as "extremely antsy and nervous," told police that after he called the couple a vulgar name, Hackman went "ballistic" and began "pummeling" him 10 or 12 times. Hackman, who won Oscars for tough-guy roles in The French Connection and Unforgiven, admitted that he struck Becker once and that both lost their balance and fell to the ground.

The actor, according to the report, had a small cut on his hand from the fall, while Becker had no visible injuries. Neither was charged with a crime.

Attempts to reach Hackman through his publicist have not been successful.

Court records show Becker has an arrest record in Santa Fe that includes a guilty plea to charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and abandonment or abuse of a child in 2008. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to battery on a peace officer, and in 1980, he pleaded guilty to arson.

Although Eastwood made a convention appearance on behalf of Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Romney in a September television talk show appearance said the Hollywood star he'd most like to see portray him in a movie is Hackman.

(c)2012 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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