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Midland man pleads guilty to attacking Asian-American Family and faces life in prison for hate crimes

Days before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Midland, a man attacked an Asian-American family at a Sam’s Club, believing they were responsible for the pandemic. He now faces life in prison and up to $750,000 in fines. 

By Mitch Borden

Jose Gomez III, 21, pleaded guilty to attacking an Asian-American family he blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic on March 14, 2020 at a Midland Sam’s Club, announced the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday. The twenty-one-year-old Midlander is facing three counts of committing a hate crime, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine up to $750,000.

In a press release, the DOJ outlined how Gomez stalked the family into Sam’s Club, grabbing knives from the store in two separate instances to attack them. While holding a knife, Gomez punched the family's father, cutting him.

He then turned on the family’s two young children, a six-year-old and a two-year-old, who were sitting in the family’s shopping cart. Gomez then slashed the six-year-old child across the face. According to the DOJ, Gomez admitted he wanted to kill the child. A store employee intervened to stop the attack and was stabbed. While being held down, Gomez yelled at the family, “Get out of America!”

Gomez said he thought the family was a “threat,” because he believed they were Chinese. He said they were “from the country who started spreading that disease around.” No cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Midland at the time of the attack.

According to the DOJ, hate crimes against Asian-Americans have been on the rise, which U.S. Attorney Ashley Hoff wrote, “will not be tolerated.”

“The defendant violently and horrifically attacked an unsuspecting innocent family because of how they looked and where he thought they came from…this type of hate-based violence has no place in our society,” stated Hoff.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.