On Friday, police in Milwaukee, Wis. arrested a 61-year-old man in connection to an acid attack that officers are investigating as a hate crime against a Peruvian-American man.
At around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Mahud Villalaz, 42, was approached by an elder white man in front of a restaurant who told him that his truck was parked illegally.
“‘You cannot park here. You are doing something illegal,’” Villalaz recalled the man, who has not been identified, saying, according to USA Today. The older man then asked Villalaz, “why did you come here and invade my country?”
Villalaz, who was raised in Peru and immigrated to the country as a young man and is a U.S. citizen, ignored the man and moved his car a block away. When he returned to the restaurant, the suspect continued berating Villalaz. When Villalaz informed the man that he is a U.S. citizen, the elder “got mad” and tossed acid at Villalaz. While the Peruvian-American turned his head, the substance still hit the left side of his face.
Villalaz suffered second-degree burns to his face. He is currently being treated for the burns and blurred vision at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee. His sister Priscilla Villalaz created a GoFundMe page to raise money to help him pay for his medical bills and lost wages. As of Monday afternoon, it has garnered more than $19,000, exceeding its $15,000 goal.
“My family and I want to thank everyone for all of the support especially from the people that we don’t know. We have seen your comments on Facebook. You all have no idea how much we appreciate it,” Priscilla wrote on the page.
She also included a message from Villalaz discussing the hate and violence that people of color experience in the U.S.
“People like this are convinced that if we don’t have white skin we don’t belong here. They won’t listen to you and will do something like this or even worse,” he said, encouraging people who experience racist or xenophobic insults to walk away rather than engage with the perpetrator.
The suspect remains under investigation for a hate crime and faces charges of aggravated battery.