Gene Hackman knew homeless man he slapped in New Mexico, police say

Gene Hackman attends at the 60th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Jan. 19, 2003. AP

Gene Hackman had given clothes, money and rides to a homeless man whom he slapped this week after the man became aggressive toward the 82-year-old Oscar-winning actor and his wife, according to a police report detailing the incident in New Mexico.

Santa Fe police say Hackman acted in self-defense, and no charges have been filed.

Hackman told officers he had helped Bruce Becker, 63, for several years, and Becker told a similar story. But their versions of the physical confrontation diverge. Hackman said he slapped the man once, and Becker said he was hit 10 to 12 times.

The report released by Santa Fe police said both agreed the incident began when Becker approached Hackman and his wife, Betsy, on a street early Tuesday afternoon and asked for money.

Becker told police Hackman called him a worthless bum and told him to get a job. Hackman said he told Becker to get a job and tried to walk away, but Becker kept following him and his wife asking for money and calling them by a derogatory name.

Becker said he told Hackman, "Gene, you are just another Clint Eastwood, you are nothing but an empty chair," an apparent reference to Eastwood's unscripted performance at the Republican National Convention, when he addressed an empty chair as if it were President Barack Obama.

Becker told officers that's when Hackman went "ballistic" and began "pummeling" him.

Hackman told police Becker became angry when he refused to give him money, called him a name and moved in close in a threatening manner. The actor told officers that's when he slapped Becker once to fend him off, and both fell to the ground.

Hackman and his wife have a home in Santa Fe. He has won two Academy Awards (for his roles in "The French Connection" and "Unforgiven") and has been nominated for three others over a career that has spanned five decades.

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