MILWAUKEE (AP) - Milwaukee prosecutors have charged a 61-year-old man with a hate crime for allegedly throwing battery acid on a Hispanic man's face.
The decision Wednesday from prosecutors means Clifton Blackwell could face an enhanced sentence if convicted of first-degree reckless injury. Prosecutors added the sentencing enhancers of hate crime and use of a dangerous weapon.
The victim, Mahud Villalaz, 42, said his attacker approached him near a restaurant and accused him of being in the country illegally before asking why he was “invading” the U.S.
Surveillance video from the restaurant recorded the attack.
John Chisholm earlier told Wisconsin Public Radio prosecutors would look “very closely first at the underlying offenses and then we’ll make a determination whether the facts support the hate crime.”
“But it’s obviously a concern to many people not just in this community but really around the country right now,” he said.
The attack on Villalaz comes at a time when the Anti-Defamation League says extreme anti-immigrant views have become part of the political mainstream in recent years through sharp rhetoric by anti-immigration groups and politicians, including President Donald Trump.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said Monday that the Trump administration has repeatedly condemned racism and violence.
Blackwell’s family said he’s a military veteran who came to Milwaukee to seek help for an undetermined medical issue. His mother, Jacqueline P. Blackwell, of California, told the Journal Sentinel he had sought care with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Milwaukee for post-traumatic stress.
“I was comfortable that he was getting good care with the VA,” she told the newspaper.
His brother, Arthur Eugene Blackwell of Evergreen, Colorado, told the AP that Clifton served nearly four years in the U.S. Marines and was stationed at the Panama Canal around the time Manuel Noriega was captured and removed in 1990. A Marine official told AP that the branch doesn’t have a record matching Blackwell’s name and birth date.