Clifton Blackwell is the 61-year-old suspect accused of tossing battery acid in the face of Mahud Villalaz, a 42-year-old Milwaukee, Wisconsin man who was left with serious facial injuries as a result, according to a criminal complaint charging him with a hate crime.
Villalaz, who is a U.S. citizen of Peruvian descent, says the suspect told him he was invading the country and was here illegally. Clifton A. Blackwell has now been charged with first-degree reckless injury with a dangerous weapon in the attack. He also now appears in the Milwaukee County Jail’s booking records. Here’s his latest mugshot, per jail records:
You can read the criminal complaint here.
Blackwell has a felony criminal history. A 2007 article in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram obtained by Heavy via newspaper archival searches reported that Blackwell went “missing” from a sentencing hearing in a felony case that year. He was convicted of “pointing a firearm at a hunter during a citizen’s arrest during deer hunting season” the previous year, the newspaper reported at that time. The newspaper said that Blackwell, who lived in Glen Flora, Wisconsin for a time, also went by the name “Dr. Stephen A.E. Pflughoeft” and, according to court records, “Pflughoeft, Stephen A Ethelmer, Dr.” (Pflughoeft appears to be a family name tied to his mother per a family obituary.) Blackwell was 49-years-old at the time of that case. Stephen Ethelmer Pflughoeft of Glen Flora has a patent for an engine/pump design.
Villalaz previously described in vivid detail in a news conference how he was the victim of a racist acid attack that left him with facial wounds. You can watch surveillance video of the moment the suspect tosses battery acid on Villalaz later in this article, but be aware that it’s very disturbing. A GoFundMe page has raised more than $34,000 to help Villalaz.
Milwaukee police said previously that they had “arrested a 61-year-old male on Saturday, November 2, 2019, in connection to an aggravated battery that occurred on Friday, November 1, 2019, in the area of 13th / Cleveland. Charges will be brought forward to the DA’s office in the next couple of days.”
Politicians, community leaders and others have decried the attack. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett tied the attack to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Clifton A. Blackwell Is a Veteran Who Was Treated Previously at the VA, Family Members Claim, But the Military Didn’t Have a Record of Him
The Journal Sentinel further reported that Blackwell is a military veteran, according to his family members. His mother Jacqueline told the newspaper that he had been treated previously for PTSD by the Milwaukee Department of Veterans Affairs due to his Marine Corps service. She told the newspaper that she thought the VA was giving him good care.
According to the Associated Press, Blackwell’s brother, Arthur Blackwell of Colorado, said his brother was “not a confrontational person” and had served in the Marines for almost four years.
However, although his brother stated that Blackwell was “stationed at the Panama Canal around the time Manuel Noriega was captured and removed in 1990,” the Marines told the AP it couldn’t find a record of Blackwell.
Blackwell doesn’t appear to have any obvious social media accounts. He was born in California in 1958, according to Ancestry records.
In a previous news conference, Villalaz said he was driving his truck to go to a restaurant. “There was a guy in the corner like waiting for the bus,” he said, then describing how the man confronted him and said he had invaded his country.
2. Surveillance Video Captured the Man Now Named as Blackwell Allegedly Tossing Liquid in Villalaz’s Face
There’s video showing a man tossing liquid into the victim’s face. You can watch it above. Villalaz said in the press conference that the man then ran away.
The criminal complaint, which refers to Villalaz as MVV, states that the victim “was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital Burn Center, where he was treated for 2nd degree burns to his face, cheek, and neck. MVV’s left eye was also treated for injury. A PH test revealed that an acidic substance caused MVV’s injuries. Police reports indicate MVV’s clothing was also burned by the acidic substance.”
Villalaz told police he was originally from Peru but came to the country in 2001 and became a U.S. citizen in 2013. He stated that he had driven to the restaurant, parked his truck in front of it, and began to walk towards it. At that point, a white male later identified as Blackwell, “yelled at MVV that he could not park there, due to proximity to a bus stop,” the complaint alleges.
The defendant then stated “Why did you invade my country?” and “Why don’t you respect my laws?” the complaint adds. “MVV then noticed the defendant pull a metal bottle from a satchel on his right side.”
At this point, “MVV realized that he was parked too close to the bus stop. MVV returned to his truck and moved it to a different parking spot. MVV again began to approach the restaurant,” the complaint continues, adding that Blackwell is accused of telling Villalaz, “Why did you invade my country?” and “Go back, go back motherf*cker,” and called Villalaz an “illegal.”
“I looked at him, and said, ‘What are you talking about?’” Villalaz said of how the attack unfolded, describing how he moved his car one block forward. He got out of his truck waiting to go into the restaurant, and the man was still waiting there. “Why you come here illegally? Why you come here to invade my country?” Villalaz says the man asked him.
Villalaz stated he responded to the defendant’s statements, calling him a “racist motherf*cker.” He says he told Blackwell that “everyone comes from somewhere first” and that American Indians have been in the country the longest.
“The defendant then proceeded to throw unknown liquid from the container into MVV’s face. The liquid immediately caused pain and burning to MVV’s face, cheek, neck, and left eye. MVV then ran into the restaurant seeking help,” the complaint says.
It adds that police searched Blackwell’s residence and “recovered from the residence included muriatic acid, four bottles of brand name Kleen-Out sulfuric acid, two bottles of Kleen-Out drain opener (100% lye), and Parkerizing cleaner.”
He was ready to go to the restaurant when he said the man threw the acid at him. He said the acid was “burning really bad” and he ran screaming into the restaurant. He was scared for his life. He then repeated his statements in the press conference in Spanish for Spanish-language media.
Journalist Chernéy Amhara shared photos of the victim’s facial injuries on Facebook, writing, “I just spoke to the victim’s family, they say he was leaving Mexican restaurant after picking up food when he was approached by a man. The two got into an argument about parking. The victim, a US citizen, was allegedly told to ‘go back to his country’ by the attacker.”
She added: “Milwaukee police confirm the man suffered second degree burns. Police say the suspect is outstanding and describe him as Caucasian male, approximately 6 ft tall with a medium build. He was last seen wearing a blue winter jacket with the hood up, black pants, black shoes, carrying a black satchel on his right side and holding a silver aluminum container containing suspected battery acid with a white shopping bag with unknown lettering.”
3. Blackwell Was Previously Convicted of Photographing & Trying to Disarm the Hunters & the Acid Attack Victim Says He Told Blackwell ‘This Isn’t Your Country. Everybody Came From Somewhere Else Here’
According to Wisconsin court records, Clifton A. Blackwell was convicted of felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor intentionally pointing a firearm at another person in Rusk County, Wisconsin. The charges were filed in 2006. Rusk County is a rural area about five hours north of Milwaukee, in the northwest section of Wisconsin.
A competency hearing was held in that case but Blackwell was found competent in 2007, those records state. However, in 2008, he was deemed not competent to stand trial and was ordered committed. Two months later, he was found competent again. In 2011, his probation was revoked in the case. “Def has 379 days of credit as of this date, Judge will accept recommendations of DOC, sentence will be credit for time served, to be released from custody today,” the online records say. In 2013, there was a judgment for an unpaid fine in the case.
The Leader-Telegram story said that Blackwell called police saying that “four hunters had entered his property” so he “disarmed and arrested them.” He got on a tractor, “retrieved his rifle,” and “confronted the hunters in a mowed field,” the article reported.
He then told the hunters, including two who were armed, that they were “under arrest for criminal trespass.” They refused his orders to disarm so he was accused of pointing his gun at them, taking pictures of their tags and faces, and making them sit on a log while he called police, the Leader Telegram reported.
“He couldn’t miss,” Derrick Schultz, one of the hunters, told The Associated Press. “… I thought he was going to shoot me the whole time … no questions asked, nothing. Just instant gun. I remember it every time I drive past his house up north.”
A 1989 article in the Marshfield News-Herald said Clifton A. Blackwell, then 30 of Glen Flora, forfeited $74 for non-registration of a vehicle. A civil case involving Blackwell and his mother as petitioners show he once had a California address.
A family obituary shows that Blackwell’s mother’s family has deep roots in Ladysmith, which is a community in Rusk County. They moved up north in the 1940s from Milwaukee to live in a log cabin.
In a detailed and emotional press conference, Villalaz, whose face bore obvious injuries from the acid attack, stated of the suspect, “I think I pissed him off because I told him, ‘This is my country. This isn’t your country. Everybody came from somewhere else here.'”
Villalaz, who is of Peruvian descent, wrote on Facebook that he works as a Welder-Fabricator.
The well-known Chef Paz restaurant wrote on Facebook, “Anger, helplessness, sadness gives me this racist attack Peruvian Mahud Villalaz my client and friend was leaving a restaurant and a racist made him acid in the face attacked by a racist crazy who is still free he was leaving a restaurant they have thrown acid in The face he is being treated at St Mary’s hospital was attacked at 13 with the Cleveland in the restaurant next to ALDI he was attacked by a racist patient because he carried in his backpack a bottle full of acid with premeditation. Beware of this guy who is still on the loose, he is carrying a briefcase, we are asking the police for the video !!! Mahud Villalaz is an American citizen but for looking Latin, he was attacked. Go to your country, he was told.?”
The GoFundMe page for Villalaz reads, in part, “My brother is a welder. Because of his injuries, he will not be able work until his burns heal and he is fully recovered… His eyesight has been affected and he will need to have follow up care. Any donation, any amount given from the heart will be greatly appreciated. We know that these type of actions are not OK. We see acts of hate like this happening everywhere. The only thing we can ask ourselves is why do they hate us so much?”
4. Blackwell’s Roommate Told Local TV That He Spent a Lot of Time on the Computer
WISN-TV spoke to Blackwell’s roommate, Mohammed Ishtiwi, who told the television station that the accusations shocked him but that officers had taken Blackwell’s computer and books from the apartment.
Ishtiwi told WISN that Blackwell, who is retired, “keeps to himself but was on his computer a lot.” A neighbor told the television station that Blackwell could be “very rude, confrontational, very aggressive, so it doesn’t surprise me,” adding that he had allegedly broken her door once.
Ishtiwi also talked to Channel 6 in Milwaukee. He told that television station that he felt Blackwell was “a prejudiced person” who had changed recently, becoming “antisocial and short-tempered.” He also told the TV station that Blackwell told him he was “in trouble. They are coming for me.”
Another neighbor, Jesus Martinez, told AP that neighborhood kids called Blackwell “Indiana Jones because he wore a black leather hat.”
Darryl Morin, president of Forward Latino, said in the news conference that “last night here on the south side of Milwaukee, we saw yet another act of hate take place.”
He said the numbers of hate crimes have been escalating the last few years. Morin said the victim is a United States citizen who was “attacked, verbally assaulted and had acid spilled on him simply because of the color of his skin and the way that he sounds. An American citizen was attacked last night in a disgusting act of hate.”
5. A Milwaukee Alderman Decried the Heinous ‘Hate Crime’
Milwaukee Alderman Jose Perez released a statement calling the acid attack a “hate crime.”
“The acid attack last night near 13th and Cleveland was a heinous crime that will have a long-term impact on the life of the victim,” Perez wrote in the statement.
“This was senseless violence and it needs to stop. We as a community need to come together to work through our differences and learn to respect one another and diffuse conflict.”
Perez added: “We need those elected officials who are spreading racial hatred to knock off the rhetoric that is designed to divide us. Instead, we need to work to heal the wounds that have been gashed open in the last few years. We as a country are better than this. Milwaukee is better than this.”
Mayor Barrett also decried the attack.
Perez added, “We as a community are encouraged that the police are investigating this attack as a hate crime and have been ensured that all hate crime enhancers are added to the charges. Those that would perpetuate violence against anyone based on their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender need to understand that they will be held to account and fully punished for their crimes.”