A man has been arrested after allegedly throwing acid in the face of a US citizen, who says his attacker told him to “go back to (his) country.”
Milwaukee police say they arrested a 61-year-old man in connection with the attack against Mahud Villalaz that caused second-degree burns. Charges will be brought forward to the district attorney’s Office in the next couple of days, Milwaukee Police public information officer Sgt. Sheronda Grant confirmed to CNN.
The attack occurred after the two men got into an argument Friday night, and the suspect threw acid on Villalaz, the police department said.
Villalaz told CNN affiliate WISN the argument was over how Villalaz had parked his car.
Villalaz said his attacker called him an “illegal” and told him to “get out of this country” before throwing acid in his face, WISN reported
“I believe (I) am a victim of a hate crime because (of) how he approached me,” Villalaz told WISN.
Villalaz is a 42-year-old welder who has been in the United States for 19 years, according to Darryl Morin, president of Forward Latino. Morin is helping the family manage media requests and deal with the incident, he told CNN.
Morin said Villalaz is a US citizen originally from Peru.
“He’s doing OK,” Morin told CNN about Villalaz’s condition. “He’s in relatively good spirits understanding how bad things could have been.”
Morin said Villalaz had to explain the incident to his wife and two young children. “They weren’t able to understand how somebody could do this to a person without knowing them.”
Mayor calls the attack a hate crime
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Monday that the incident was “obviously” a hate crime.
“To single out someone because they’re from a Hispanic origin is simply wrong,” he said.
Barrett likened the harassing language of the attack to comments President Donald Trump has made against Hispanics and other immigrants.
“My concern is that more and more people feel that because the president is saying it that this is OK. It’s not OK, it’s horrible,” he said.
“We know what’s happening. Everybody knows what’s happening. It’s because the president is talking about it on a daily basis that people feel that they have license to go after Hispanic people, and it’s wrong,” he added.
The attack is now “being probed as a hate crime,” according to a statement from Milwaukee Alderman Jose Perez.
“The acid attack last night near 13th and Cleveland was a heinous crime that will have a long-term impact on the life of the victim,” Perez said in the statement. “This was senseless violence, it needs to stop.”
Perez added the community is encouraged that the attack is being investigated as a hate crime.
The Milwaukee Police Department did not specify whether hate crime charges are possible, telling CNN “this is still an open investigation.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the victim’s first name.
CNN’s Laura James and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.