CRIME
05/16/2014 10:41 am ET Updated May 16, 2014

Suspect In Walmart Lug Wrench Attack Says Toddler Deserved To Be Beaten

A homeless woman faces attempted murder and hate crimes charges after she allegedly beat a man and his 4-year-old daughter with a lug wrench because they were Asian American.

The attack happened at a San Jose, California, Walmart on Wednesday morning. Prosecutors say that Maria Garate, a 20-year-old transient, entered the store carrying a lug wrench and immediately struck the little girl in the head, KTVU reports. The girl's father was beaten as he fended off additional blows aimed at his daughter.

Police credit the man with saving his daughter's life.

“If someone was attacking my daughter, not much would keep me from trying to stop that attack,” San Jose Police Lt. Jason Dwyer told KPIX. “I think the father did what any father would do. He intervened and was able to stop the attack. I know he did it out of love, but it was heroic.”

The victims have not been identified. The girl was taken to an area hospital and treated for injuries that are not considered life-threatening.

Security guards detained Garate while police responded to the scene. An employee told KPIX that, while Garate was subdued, she yelled that the girl "deserved it."

Garate was originally arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, but on Thursday, prosecutors amended the charges to attempted murder and committing a hate crime. Authorities said that Garate intentionally targeted the man and his daughter because they were Asian American, and that it had been premeditated.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the attack took place less than a mile from a well-known homeless encampment called "the Jungle."

Police told the newspaper they had previously contacted Garate there, but they could not confirm Garate was a resident of the encampment and did not say why they had come into contact before.

Several details in the case were clarified after initial reports. Local media originally gave Garate's age as 18, and said that the weapon used in the brutal attack was a crowbar.

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