A 21 year old man will spend 25 years in prison on hate crime charges after attacking an Asian family he believed to be responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release from the Justice Department.
Jose Gomez III, of Midland, pleaded guilty in March 2020 to three counts of committing a hate crime, according to the release. He was sentenced Thursday.
According to facts Gomez admitted to in his plea, he entered a Sam's Club in Midland behind an Asian family with young children. He said he'd never seen them before but thought they were a "threat" because they were "from the country who started spreading that disease around," he said in his plea.
Gomez went to find a serrated steak knife in the store that he bent so the blade rested against his knicles when he was holding it, the sharp edge facing outward, according to the Justice Department. He then found the family again and punched the father in the face, cutting him, then turned to the two young children, at the time 6 and 2 years old, seated in the front basket of the shopping cart.
He slashed at the children and cut open the face of the 6-year-old child, cutting millimeters from the child's right eye, splitting his right year and then wrapping around to the back of the skull, according to the Justice Department. He also stabbed a white Sam's Club employee who intervened to stop Gomex from further assaulting the Asian family.
Gomez admitted in his plea that he intended to kill the 6-year-old boy, according to the Justice Department.
While being held down to the ground, Gomez yelled for the Asian family to "get out of America," according to the Justice department.
"Pandemic-driven and racially-motivated acts of violence are deplorable crimes, and the Justice Department stands ready to use our hate crimes laws to hold perpetrators accountable," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said in the release. "Hate crimes targeting Asian Americans have spiked during the pandemic and must be confronted. All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of race, color or national origin."
FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffery Downey, at the FBI El Paso field office, called the attack "cowardly and racially motivated" and said they don't represent the West Texas community.
"It is our hope today's sentence will help the victims with the healing process," Downey said. "Rest assured, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue anyone who commits these violent acts to ensure the civil rights of all Americans are protected."
The case was investigated by the FBI and Midland police.