MILWAUKEE (AP) - A Wisconsin man accused of throwing acid on a Hispanic man’s face Friday has been charged with a hate crime, according to authorities.
Milwaukee police arrested 61-year-old Clifton A. Blackwell on Saturday for throwing battery acid on Mahud Villalaz who says Blackwell asked him, “Why did you come here and invade my country?”
Villalaz suffered second-degree burns to his face. He said the attack happened after Blackwell confronted him about how he had parked his car and accused him of being in the U.S. illegally. Villalaz, 42, is a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Peru.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett expressed shock at the attack and blamed President Donald Trump for inciting hatred against minorities. The president has repeatedly referred to migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border as an “invasion.”
“To single out someone because they’re from a Hispanic origin is simply wrong. And we know what’s happening,” Barrett, a Democrat, said. “Everybody knows what’s happening. It’s because the president is talking about it on a daily basis that people feel they have license to go after Hispanic people. And it’s wrong.”
Jacqueline P. Blackwell, of California, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that her son, a military veteran, had moved to Milwaukee seeking to get help for post-traumatic stress disorder. She said she had not been in touch with him recently and had not heard of his arrest.
“I was comfortable that he was getting good care with the VA,” she told the paper.
61-year-old Clifton A. Blackwell charged with hate crime after throwing battery acid on Mahud Villalaz. (Rusk County Sheriff’s Office/GoFundMe)
Blackwell’s brother, 63-year-old Arthur Blackwell of Evergreen, Colorado, told The Associated Press on Monday that Blackwell “was not a confrontational person.” He says his brother served nearly four years in the U.S. Marines.
State court records show Blackwell was convicted in a 2006 Rusk County case of false imprisonment and pointing a gun at a person. Details aren’t available online, but the Journal Sentinel reported the case involved Blackwell confronting men who had come onto his farm property tracking a deer.
Surveillance video shows the confrontation but does not include audio.
Villalaz told reporters on Saturday that he was headed into a Mexican restaurant for dinner when a man approached him and told him, “You cannot park here. You are doing something illegal.” He said the man also accused him of being in the U.S. illegally and of invading the country.
He said he ignored the man and moved his truck to another block. But when he returned to the restaurant, the man was waiting for him with an open bottle, Villalaz said.
The man again accused him of being in the U.S. illegally, Villalaz said. He then told the man that he was a citizen and that “everybody came from somewhere else here,” Villalaz said.
That’s when he said the man tossed acid at him. Villalaz turned his head, and the liquid hit the left side of his face.Villalaz’s sister told The Associated Press on Monday that her brother believes the man was prepared and wanted to attack someone.
“He’s in shock. He says he can’t conceive how someone would be intent on harming someone like that,” Villalaz said in Spanish.
She said her brother is recovering. She said the doctor who treated him said it helped that he immediately washed his face several times inside a restaurant. His family created a GoFundMe page to cover his medical expenses.