EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A man accused of stabbing members of an Asian-American family — including a 6-year-old child — has pleaded guilty to three counts of committing a hate crime.

Jose Gomez III, 21, of Midland, Texas, told investigators he attacked the family inside a Sam’s Club Warehouse on March 14, 2020, because he believed they were Chinese and responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a news release from the Department of Justice, Gomez had never seen the family before but followed them in the store for several minutes. Gomez found a serrated steak knife in the store and bent the blade so that the sharp edge faced outward. He approached the family and punched the father in the face, cutting him.

Gomez left and returned with an 8-inch knife from the store. He attacked the family’s two young children – then aged 6 and 2 – who were seated in the front basket of the shopping cart. Gomez slashed the face of the 6-year-old child. Prosecutors said the blade entered millimeters from his right eye, split his right ear, and wrapped around to the back of his skull.

Gomez also stabbed a Sam’s Club employee who intervened.

While being held down on the ground, Gomez yelled at the Asian family, “Get out of America!”

Gomez told investigators he intended to kill the 6-year-old child and stabbed the employee for preventing him from doing it.

“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Racially motivated hate crimes targeting the Asian American community are on the rise and have no place in our society today. All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of race, color, or national origin.”

Gomez faces a life sentence for each offense and a $250,000 fine.