Arraignment set for man charged in hate crime acid attack

Clifton Blackwell

MILWAUKEE -- Clifton Blackwell, 62, of Milwaukee, facing hate crime charges in connection with an acid attack that happened on Nov. 1 near 13th Street and Cleveland Avenue on Milwaukee's south side was in court Wednesday, Jan. 29 for his preliminary hearing.

During the hearing, a Milwaukee police detective testified, and a motion to dismiss by the defense was denied. Probable cause was found for further proceedings, and Blackwell was bound over for trial. An arraignment was scheduled for Feb. 3.

Blackwell faces one count of first-degree reckless injury, use of a dangerous weapon, hate crime after prosecutors said he threw acid on a Latino man following a dispute over parking.

The victim, Mahud Villalaz, suffered second-degree burns as a result of the attack.

Prosecutors said around 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 1, officers made contact with Villalaz, who is from Peru, according to court documents. A criminal complaint said he moved to the United States in 2001, and became a U.S. citizen in 2013.

Clifton Blackwell

Villalaz was transported to St. Mary's Hospital Burn Center for second-degree burns to his face, cheek, neck, and injuries to his left eye. A PH test revealed, "an acidic substance" caused the injuries. Police said his clothing was also burned by the acidic substance.

Mahud Villalaz

Villalaz told investigators he went to a restaurant at 13th and Cleveland that night. He said he parked in front of the restaurant and began walking towards the entrance when Blackwell approached -- telling Villalaz that he could not park there due to the nearby bus stop. Prosecutors said Blackwell asked Villalaz, "Why did you invade my country?" and "Why don't you respect my laws?" He then pulled a metal bottle from a bag on his side.

At this point, the complaint said Villalaz realized he was parked too close to the bus stop, so he returned to his truck and moved it to a different spot before walking back towards the restaurant. At this point, the complaint said Blackwell engaged the victim again, asking him, "Why did you invade my country?" Blackwell told Villalaz to "Go back -- go back (expletive)," calling Villalaz "an illegal."

Suspected acid attack (Surveillance images courtesy: Hispanic News Network)

Villalaz said he responded by calling Blackwell "a racist (expletive)," informing Blackwell that "everyone comes from somewhere first."

Blackwell then threw liquid from the container into Villalaz's face, the complaint said. He ran into the restaurant for help.

The complaint said a search warrant was executed at Blackwell's home, and investigators found "muriatic acid, Kleen-Out sulfuric acid, Kleen-Out drain opener (100% lye), and Parkerizing cleaner." Blackwell's family said he's a military veteran who came to Milwaukee to seek help for an undetermined medical issue. He refused a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he could assist in his own defense on Nov. 26.

Surveillance cameras from the restaurant recorded the attack.