Man charged with hate crime in racist acid attack

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Clifton Blackwell, 61, in a police photo, a suspect in an acid attack in Milwaukee, has been charged with a hate crime. (Milwaukee County Jail)

A Milwaukee man was charged with a hate crime on Wednesday for allegedly throwing battery acid on a Hispanic man in a suspected racist attack, authorities said.

Clifton Blackwell, 61, was charged with first-degree reckless injury, use of a dangerous weapon and a hate crime after video appeared to show him dousing a man with acid during an argument over the victim’s immigration status, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Mahud Villalaz, 42, said Blackwell confronted him on Friday, complaining about how he parked his vehicle. A surveillance camera captured the scary encounter on video, showing the suspect raising his hands and pointing in Villalaz’s face right before he splashed him with the liquid.

“He started arguing, saying, ‘Why you came here and invade my country? Why you came here illegally?’ [I said], ‘Sir, you don’t know my status. I’m a U.S. citizen too,'” Villalaz recalled. “He got mad when I told him ‘everybody came here from somewhere else.'”

Villalaz, who was on his way to a restaurant, said he had begun to walk away when the man suddenly tossed the acid in his face.

He said he tried to defend himself, “but then it started burning really bad.”

PHOTO: Mahud Villalaz, 42, a Milwaukee, Wis., native, says he had battery acid thrown in his face after an argument with a stranger who told him to get out of this country.
Mahud Villalaz, 42, a Milwaukee, Wis., native, says he had battery acid thrown in his face after an argument with a stranger who told him to “get out of this country.”more +

“I want to say thank you for the people helping me,” Villalaz said at a press conference Wednesday. “I appreciate it a lot; they fill my heart. There is a lot of good people here just for one guy. I’m very thankful that I’m OK.”

Blackwell could face up to 25 years in prison and $100,000 in fines, if convicted as charged. It’s unclear if he has retained an attorney.

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