The Fourth of July fireworks display was just beginning when Erik Mendoza realized his 91-year-old grandfather was missing. Thinking he might have gone for his daily walk, Mendoza wandered around the Los Angeles neighborhood searching for him.
What he found was a bloodstained sidewalk.
Mendoza told The Washington Post that 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.
Misbel Borjas saw the assault as it happened.
Traffic had slowed Borjas’s car at a corner in Willowbrook, Calif., around 7 p.m. on July 4. Rodriguez accidentally bumped into a young girl while walking on the sidewalk, Borjas told The Washington Post. Borjas, a 35-year-old Los Angeles resident, watched the child’s mother — a black woman — push the elderly man to the ground and repeatedly bash him in the face with a concrete brick while yelling, “Go back to your country.”
“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 Department of Justice released its recent hate crime statistics, reported by KCRA. The 2017 California report, which was the first published since President 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 on Thursday. The family set up a GoFundMe campaign for his medical costs.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident. Sheriff’s Det. Carlos Cueva said no one had been apprehended as of Monday evening.