Texas man sentenced to 25 years in jail after slashing attack on Asian family he blamed for Covid pandemic

A Texas man who attacked an Asian family he believed to be "Chinese and therefore responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic," was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison on hate crime charges, the Department of Justice announced.

Jose Gomez III, 21, of Midland Texas had pleaded guilty to three counts of committing a hate crime in February in connection with slashing a customer, their 6-year-old child and a Sam’s Club employee on March 14, 2020.

In the attack, Gomez had entered the store behind an Asian family with young children. He followed them in the store for several minutes claiming he perceived them to be a “threat” as they were “from the country who started spreading that disease around," the Justice Department said in a release.

He then found a serrated steak knife in the store and bent it so that it rested against his knuckles with the sharp edge facing outward.

Armed, he returned to that family and punched the father in the face, cutting him, prosecutors said.

Gomez then found an eight-inch knife in the store, returned to the family and turned towards the father’s two young children, six and two years old, seated in the front basket of a shopping cart, officials said.

He “slashed open” the face of the six-year-old, and the blade entered mere millimeters from the child’s right eye, split his right ear and wrapped around to the back of his skull, the release said.

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

When Gomez was finally held on the ground, he yelled at the family, “Get out of America!”

In his plea, Gomez admitted that he attempted to kill the six-year-old child, prosecutors said.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division slammed pandemic-driven and racially-motivated acts of violence as "deplorable crimes."

"The Justice Department stands ready to use our hate crimes laws to hold perpetrators accountable,” Clarke said, noting that hate crimes targeting Asian Americans "have spiked during the pandemic and must be confronted."

"All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of race, color or national origin," Clarke said.

The U.S. has seen a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes since the Covid-19 pandemic with arrests across the nation linked to racist rhetoric and attacks.

“Mr. Gomez’s cowardly and racially motivated actions do not represent our West Texas community,” said Special Agent in Charge Jeffery R. Downey of the FBI El Paso Field Office. “It is our hope today’s sentence will help the victims with the healing process. Rest assured, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue anyone who commits these violent acts to ensure the civil rights of all Americans are protected.”

Gomez is still facing pending state charges for three counts of attempted capital murder and one count of aggravated assault, NBC affiliate KWES-TV of Odessa, Texas, reported.

According to District Attorney Laura Nodolf, the state can now proceed with charges now that his sentencing for the federal charges is complete, the station reported.

NBC News has reached out to Gomez’ lawyer for comment.

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