Acid attack on Latino in Wisconsin investigated as a hate crime
MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee police arrested a man suspected of throwing battery acid on another man in an attack authorities believe was a hate crime.
Mahud Villalaz suffered second-degree burns to his face after a man confronted him Friday about how he had parked his truck and accused him of being in the country illegally. Villalaz, 42, is a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Peru.
Police say the suspect is white. They arrested a 61-year-old man, but have not released his name. Charges are expected Tuesday.
Villalaz told reporters that he was headed into a Mexican restaurant for dinner Friday when a man approached him and told him, “You cannot park here. You are doing something illegal.” Villalaz said the man added, “Why did you come here and invade my country.”
He said he ignored the man and moved his truck. 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 and then tossed acid at him. The liquid covered the left side of his face. Villalaz was treated at a hospital and released.
The attack comes amid a spike in hate crimes directed at immigrants that researchers and experts on extremism say is tied to mainstream political rhetoric.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett expressed shock Monday at the attack and blamed President Trump for inciting hatred against minorities. The president has repeatedly referred to migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as an “invasion.”
“Everybody knows what’s happening,” Barrett said. “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.”
Ivan Moreno is an Associated Press writer.