A west Texas man pleaded guilty Wednesday to three federal hate-crime charges stemming from a knife attack against an Asian family early in the pandemic.
Jose Gomez III, 21-year-old, of Midland, admitted his guilt to the slashing of a customer, his 6-year-old child and a Sam's Club employee on March 14, 2020.
Gomez confronted a Burmese family, believing they were Chinese and "from the country who started spreading that disease around,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.
Gomez grabbed a serrated steak knife in the store and bent the blade around his knuckles, with the sharp edge facing out so he could slash and punch in one motion, prosecutors said.
After he punched the father and cut his face, Gomez then saw the victim's two children, 6 and 2, seated in the front basket of a shopping cart, authorities said. Gomez slashed open the older child's face and came "millimeters from" the son's eye, the government said.
A white Sam Club's employee suffered several cuts coming to the family's defense, officials said, as Gomez yelled, "Get out of America!"
“An Asian family was shopping when the defendant brutally attacked them because of their race and because he blamed them for the Covid-19 pandemic,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “Racially motivated hate crimes targeting the Asian American community are on the rise and have no place in our society today. "
Gomez still faces state charges in the attack. His lawyer declined to comment Thursday.
“No one should be afraid to go shopping or feel like they could be targeted by an act of violence based on their race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, country of national origin, or immigration status,” said Jeffrey Downey, the FBI’s special agent in charge in El Paso.