MIDLAND, Texas (Big 2/Fox 24/Border Report) — A man accused of stabbing three members of an Asian-American family — including two children ages 2 and 6 — said he did it because he thought they were “Chinese and infecting people with the coronavirus,” according to an FBI intelligence report obtained by ABC.
Jose Gomez, 19, is charged with three counts of attempted capital murder and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the March 14 stabbing at a Sam’s Club in Midland Texas.
An off-duty Border Patrol agent reportedly stepped in stopped the alleged attacker. U.S. Border Patrol officials said the agent, was shopping when a man with a knife began assaulting several people, including two children and a Sam’s Club employee.
The agent identified himself as law-enforcement and drew his firearm, which prompted the man to drop the knife, authorities said. The agent and Sam’s Club employee who was stabbed in the incident held the suspect until Midland police officers arrived at the scene.
Two victims are in critical condition and the third is in stable condition at a Midland-area hospital. Their current conditions are unknown.
“The quick action of our agent ended this shocking situation and clearly saved multiple lives,” said Big Bend Sector Chief Patrol Agent Matthew Hudak, who tweeted a picture of the agent and Sam’s employee. “I’m proud of our agents as they are valuable members of our communities. This is another example of how we protect America.”
In his tweet, Hudak identified the agent as Bernie Ramirez and the store employee as Zach Owen.
According to ABC News, the intelligence report was compiled by the FBI’s Houston office and distributed to local law enforcement agencies across the country. The report said that based on the assumption that a portion of the U.S. public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations, “the agency assesses hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States. … due to the spread of coronavirus disease … endangering Asian American communities.”
Last month, President Donald Trump faced criticism for saying he didn’t think calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” — or the “kung flu,” as one administration official reportedly called it — puts Asian Americans at risk of retaliation despite growing reports they are facing virus-related discrimination.
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On April 2, the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, and the Center for American Progress submitted a joint letter, calling on mayors and governors for help. In a statement, they said in part, “While many elected officials have denounced this racism, we believe everyone should be united in overcoming COVID-19 and rejecting hate.”
“First, our community felt it right away,” said Luke Young, president of the Midland-Odessa Chinese Association. “Sometimes we feel small. So when this happens, we were a little bit helpless and basically terrified.”
Young told KMID/KPEJ he has been a proud West Texan for 30 years. He has raised his children in West Texas and works as an anesthesiologist for Odessa Regional Medical Center and Midland Memorial Hospital. Asian-Americans like Young are woven into communities all across the nation.
“We do have people, mothers especially, as you said, have concerns. Now they’re afraid of taking kids back to school, and also worried going to the supermarket. And of course, extremely worried, just by simply wearing a mask,” Young said.
As a show of support, the Chinese Association donated medical gear to local officers in West Texas.
“We want to be a part of this, we don’t want to be left behind, and we want to help,” explained Young. “Just like I said at the beginning, we’re proud members of the same family, and what we’re doing is all for one, and one for all.”
Midland County District Attorney Laura Nodolf said her team fully intends to move forward with the first-degree felony charges against Gomez. She said any evidence of hate crime in Midland County could enhance the charges to federal hate crime charges.
“There’s just no excuse. That is the bottom line. There is no excuse for committing a crime based on some type of racial motivation,” Nodolf said.
She encourages every resident to report suspicious activity. She said one of the biggest lessons learned after the Aug. 31st mass shooting is the need to enhance our ability to investigate suspicious activity.
Border Report contributed to this story.