Hazel Salinas remembers tearfully looking down at her fiancee Jose Contretras last week before he was whisked away into surgery.
The beating Contretras allegedly suffered at the hands of a co-worker had cracked his skull, doctors told them, causing bits of bone to lodge in his brain.
The sight of dried blood covering the man's clothes lingered in her mind as she waited for word on his condition, she recalled Wednesday.
Amazingly, Contretras improved dramatically after doctors removed the particles and closed his skull. He was able to return home this week.
Despite relief that her fiancee is mending from the near-death experience, Salinas and her friends say they're angry that his accused assailant already is back on the streets. James Hinkle, 54, was charged with two counts of class C felony battery of Contretras while the two were at work Friday.
Hinkle was out of jail the day after the incident on $1,000 bond, according to jail records.
Hinkle told police he hit Contretras with a metal pole because he was annoying him, according to police reports, but Contretras said through a translator Wednesday that he had done nothing to the man.
Salinas believes the beating may have been racially motivated, and she believes Hinkle should face a stiffer penalty considering the extent of Contretras' injuries.
"He could've killed him," Salinas said during an interview at her home. "Even if he was winking his eye, is that cause for somebody to try to kill somebody?"
The police are still taking the position no hate crime occurred, whether the attack was related to victim's race or perceived sexual orientation, which means it won't be reported as a hate crime under Indiana's hate crime reporting statute.
Two of the victim's co-workers couldn't understand the attack. "Employees Debbie Brocklehurst and her daughter Kathy Hollingsworth ran to Contretras' aid as soon as they saw him lying on the ground." "He wasn't moving," Brocklehurst remembered by phone Wednesday. "There was a lot of blood." "Both women were shocked that Hinkle would strike the man for no apparent reason." "Because of the language barrier, Brocklehurst said Contretras often whistled and used hand signs to communicate with workers who didn't speak Spanish." "Brocklehurst said it was just his way of communicating and no one else seemed to mind."
Contretras was even more confused by the attack than his co-workers were. "Contretras said Wednesday that he had never interacted with Hinkle before and that he doesn't remember exactly what happened." "I'm mad, 'cause I didn't do anything to him," he said. "I didn't even talk to him." "I want to know why he did this to me," Contretras said. "He did not have (any) reason."
On the question of whether the crime may have constituted a hate crime, Gallegos received this response from St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak's office:
There is no Indiana Criminal Statute that exists that designates a racially motivated crime as a separate offense, nor is there any Indiana Statute that enhances or aggravates an existing criminal offense or its penalties if the criminal activity is racially motivated.
Did you read that Rep. Ryan Dvorak? Let's take care of this problem so your father will have a statute to prosecute such crimes as a hate crime offense like prosecutors do in all but 5 of our United States. Also, Prosecutor Dvorak, ask the South Bend police to report this as a hate crime as the department is supposed to do under Indiana law. Perhaps the department needs a little primer on what constitutes a hate crime for purposes of reporting under the law.