Journal Times editorial: Milwaukee acid attack must be punished
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Journal Times editorial: Milwaukee acid attack must be punished

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Two men get in a dispute over a parking space.

It’s been known to happen. We’re approaching the time of the year when that is more likely to occur. Words have been known to be exchanged.

That’s ordinary. What’s extraordinary, and horrifying, is what Clifton Blackwell stands accused of doing to Mahud Villalaz during a parking dispute on Nov. 1 in Milwaukee.

Villalaz, 42, suffered second-degree burns to his face after the brief confrontation near South 13th and West Cleveland streets.

According to Villalaz, the attack occurred about 8:30 p.m. when Villalaz parked his truck outside La Sierrita Restaurant, 2689 S 13th St., and began to head inside for dinner.

Villalaz said the man, later identified as Blackwell, first approached him to tell him he had parked illegally.

“ ‘You cannot park here. You are doing something illegal,’ “ Villalaz recalled the man saying.

The comments quickly adopted an anti-immigrant tone, Villalaz said.

“’Why did you come here and invade my country?’” Villalaz said the man asked him.

Villalaz, a U.S. citizen who immigrated here from Peru as a young man, ignored the man and moved his truck one block forward. As he returned to the restaurant, the man began accusing him anew of being in the U.S. illegally.

Villalaz responded that people come here for a better life and that he is citizen. That seemed to further anger the suspect, Villalaz said, and he suddenly threw acid from a metal bottle he had in a satchel. The attack was recorded by nearby security cameras.

Police recovered muriatic acid, four bottles of Kleen-Out sulfuric acid and two bottles of lye from Blackwell’s residence near South 13th Street and West Edgerton Avenue.

Blackwell is charged with first-degree reckless injury with a dangerous weapon, as a hate crime.

Blackwell appeared in court on Nov. 15 for what was scheduled to be a preliminary examination, but his attorney had questions about his ability to aid in his own defense. Court Commissioner Barry Phillips ordered a competency evaluation and set a date for the return of the doctor’s report to Circuit Judge Glenn Yamahiro.

We’re left to conclude that Villalaz’s brown skin mattered more to Blackwell than the fact that Villalaz is an American just like him. Or how he parked his truck the first time.

If Blackwell is found competent to stand trial, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

If he is found guilty, he should receive the maximum punishment.

Racist hate has no place in the Badger State.

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