A white man who allegedly threw battery acid on a Latino man's face, telling him to "go back to your country," was charged with a hate crime on Wednesday.
The victim, Mahud Villalaz, is a US citizen and continues to recover from Friday's attack, which left him unable to see from one eye and with painfully peeling skin. On Wednesday, 61-year-old Clifton Blackwell was charged with first-degree reckless injury with use of a dangerous weapon, with a hate crime enhancement.
If convicted, Blackwell could face up to 35 years in prison.
According to a criminal complaint, Villalaz was walking toward the entrance of a Mexican restaurant in the Milwaukee neighborhood of Lincoln Village Friday night when Blackwell yelled at him, telling him his truck was parked too close to a bus stop.
Blackwell then allegedly screamed, "Why did you invade my country? Why don't you respect my laws?"
Ignoring him, Villalaz went back to his pickup to move it to a different parking spot. When he returned to the restaurant, the complaint said Blackwell again demanded, "Why did you invade my country?"
At a press conference the day after the attack, Villalaz said he remembered seeing a bottle in Blackwell's hand, but he thought it was alcohol.
"Go back, go back, motherfucker," Blackwell allegedly said, calling Villalaz an "illegal," police reported.
Villalaz was born in Peru, moved to the US in 2001, and became a citizen in 2013.
"Sir, you don't know my status," Villalaz told him.
Responding to the insults, Villalaz called Blackwell a "racist motherfucker" and told him that "everyone comes from somewhere first," adding that "American Indians have been in the country the longest," the complaint said.
After the acid was thrown in his face, Villalaz said he tried to shield himself. At the press conference, his skin was shiny and scalded.
"It started burning, really bad," he told reporters. "I started screaming for help."
A nearby surveillance camera captured the attack, showing the two men exchanging words when, suddenly, one quickly draws a bottle and tosses its contents onto the other.
Villalaz said his face and neck immediately began to burn. In searing pain, he said he ran into the restaurant for help, racing to the bathroom to try and rinse off the acid.
"Thank God I am alive," he told reporters.
On Monday, police searched Blackwell's home and found four bottles of Kleen-Out sulfuric acid, two bottles of Kleen-Out drain opener, and a cleaner, according to court documents.
Villalaz's sister, Priscilla, created a GoFundMe to help pay for his medical care, writing that her brother lost vision in his left eye. Half of his face and neck are covered in dark burns. His skin has begun blister, peel, and fall off and he is in a great amount of pain, the page says.
"My brother is a welder. Because of his injuries, he will not be able work until his burns heal and he is fully recovered," she wrote. "We know that these type of actions are not OK. We see acts of hate like this happening everywhere."
The family had asked for $15,000. As of Wednesday, about 1,300 people have raised more than $47,000.
In a short video taken at a hospital and posted online Monday, Villalaz can be seen videochatting with his youngest son, who asked if he was seeing the doctor.
"I am going to be OK, everything is fine, all right," he reassures the 5-year-old. "I love you very much."
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Villalaz became emotional talking about his sons, about what it was like trying to answer their questions about what had happened to him.
"I don't want this guy near my kids, near my family," he said, choking back tears. "How can you be like that?... My son calls me today, 'Daddy what happened with you?' What do I tell him? Some crazy guy did this to me. That's what happened."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Monday told reporters that the city's Latino community was alarmed by the attack. The Democrat also linked the violence to President Donald Trump's incessant racist rhetoric.
“This anger towards people from other countries is being fed by our president and by his followers,” he said. “What we saw over the weekend is a manifestation of that anger.”