The 20-year-old who allegedly beat a disabled man with his own cane told police his father used to abuse him, which may have led him to behave violently, according to court documents.
Police and prosecutors say Miguel Velasquez-Mendoza, a painter from Guatemala, stole a 44-year-old man’s cane Saturday, beat him in the chest, then walked away with the disabled man’s walking stick.
Velasquez-Mendoza pleaded not guilty Wednesday afternoon to charges of unarmed robbery and of assault and battery on a disabled person in South Boston District Court.
“It’s a very violent attack,” said Assistant Suffolk District Attorney Elizabeth Burke. “It’s an extremely unprovoked and cowardly attack on a person who didn’t have the capacity to defend himself.”
The attack took place just after 11 p.m. at the bus station in Andrew Square, where Christopher Johnson, who works at the Boston Housing Authority and has cerebral palsy, was waiting to board the Number 16 bus to go home.
Johnson was not seriously hurt, but was distraught to lose his cane and appalled that two men nearby did not help him.
Two days later, Transit Police released a video of the assault, and on Tuesday they released enhanced images of the attacker, who was wearing a red jacket, jeans, and a red hat. That afternoon, they received a tip from a colleague of Velasquez-Mendoza telling them they could find Johnson’s attacker in Watertown. The colleague, who did not give a name, said Velasquez-Mendoza was working at a site on Rosary Drive, wearing the same clothes he allegedly wore during the assault. Police showed Velasquez-Mendoza the enhanced pictures, and he told them that he recognized himself in the photos.
“He initially denied having knowledge of the incident due to intoxication,” police wrote in their report. “Velasquez-Mendoza then made an admission to hitting Johnson with the cane. Velasquez-Mendoza related this incident to childhood memories and abuse he endured by his father.”
Velasquez-Mendoza’s lawyer, Alim Adatia, said his client lives in a shelter and moved here 3½ years ago. He said he did not know if his client was in the United States legally.
“He’s been trying to make a way for himself, a life for himself,” Adatia said. Mendoza-
Velasquez works for New Color Painting in Somerville, according to court documents. A message left at the firm’s office was not immediately returned.
Judge Tracy-Lee Lyons ordered Velasquez-Mendoza held on $1,500 cash bail, substantially less than the $10,000 cash bail Burke requested. He was ordered to stay away from South Boston unless he is there for court appearances, to stay away from Johnson, and to submit to random alcohol and drug tests. Adatia said his client described a different version of events, but declined to be specific. “I think the question is, did he do it,” Adatia said to reporters after the arraignment. “It’s a big jump to make that it’s definitely him who did this.”