The Fourth of July fireworks display was just beginning when Erik Mendoza realized that his 91-year-old grandfather was missing. Thinking he might have gone for his daily walk, Mendoza wandered around his Los Angeles neighborhood searching for him.
What he found was a bloodstained sidewalk.
Mendoza said his grandfather, Rodolfo Rodriguez, a permanent resident of the United States, had been attacked with a brick and taken to the hospital with a broken cheekbone and two broken ribs.
An eyewitness later told The Washington Post that Rodriguez had accidentally bumped into a young girl while walking on the sidewalk. The child’s mother - a black woman - then pushed the elderly man to the ground and repeatedly bashed him in the face with a concrete brick while yelling, “Go back to your country,” the eyewitness said.
A suspect, identified as 30-year-old Laquisha Jones, was arrested late Tuesday on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Jones is being held on $200,000 bail, according to online booking records.
It was not immediately clear whether Jones has an attorney.
Misbel Borjas saw the assault as it happened.
Traffic had slowed Borjas’ car at a corner in Willowbrook, California, around 7 p.m. July 4, when Rodriguez bumped into the young girl before being attacked, Borjas told The Post.
“I tried to help him, but the lady said, ‘If you come over here I’ll hit your car with the same brick,’ ” recounted Borjas, who had attempted to pull over and rescue Rodriguez.
Instead, Borjas photographed the mother and her child. Then she called 911.
Minutes later, however, the attack continued, Borjas said. A group of young men bounded down the street, accusing Rodriguez of trying to snatch the young girl. They kicked Rodriguez, who was already crumpled on the ground, and stomped on his head.
” ‘Why? Why are you hitting me?’ ” Borjas recalled Rodriguez crying in Spanish. ” ‘Please get away.’ ”
Once the men fled, Borjas exited her car and waited with Rodriguez for the ambulance to arrive.
“It was terrible, terrible, terrible,” she said. “There was a lot of blood on his head and face. He looked like his mouth and teeth were broken.”
Meanwhile, around 8:30 p.m., Mendoza and his family had gathered outside to watch the Independence Day fireworks, but Rodriguez was nowhere to be seen.
Mendoza didn’t learn what had happened to Rodriguez until later that evening.
“I was in shock that someone would hurt my grandfather,” he said. “What kind of harm can he mean to anyone? He’s 91.”
Rodriguez’s attack comes after the Justice Department released its recent hate-crime statistics, reported by KCRA. The 2017 California report, which was the first published since President Donald Trump took office, evinced an uptick of more than 17 percent, with anti-Hispanic and anti-Latino crimes soaring over 50 percent last year, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Rodriguez was released from the hospital Thursday. The family set up a GoFundMe campaign for his medical costs.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident. Authorities said in a statement that Jones, the suspect, was arrested late Tuesday night without incident. The authorities said they have not determined a motive and that the weapon has not been found.
Investigators are working to determine whether anyone else was involved in the incident, according to the authorities.