GRESHAM, Ore. - While a 71-year-old man is in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered in an attack at a MAX station, police say the 15-year-old boy accused of putting him there may have been involved in a gang initiation.
The teen, Abel Antonio Chavez-Garcia, was arrested Saturday night after a 71-year-old man was beaten with a baseball bat at a Gresham MAX station. He faces attempted murder charges, and, according to prosecutors, will be tried as an adult.
The victim, Laurie Lee Chilcote of Sandy, is being treated at Oregon Health & Science University for extensive head injuries. He was listed in fair condition on Monday, but was having difficulty speaking.
The attack happened around 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Gresham Central MAX Transit Station located at Northeast 8th Street and Kelly Avenue.
According to police, Chilcote was on the same eastbound MAX train as the 15-year-old, and the trouble began when the two got off at the transit station.
Police said the teen and his friends taunted the elderly man before the youth pulled out a baseball bat and hit the man first on the back and then on the head.
Officers found Chilcote lying near the train tracks and bleeding from the head. He was rushed to the hospital.
Chilcote is a regular volunteer at the Police Activities League, and on Monday the kids there made cards for him.
"We called him Grandpa Laurie," one girl said. "He's a nice guy."
The 15-year-old suspect was located within minutes. Witnesses reported that the suspect lacked emotion during the attack.
One witness, who did not want to be identified, spoke to KATU News and said he was still reeling over what he and his family saw.
"We saw that impact," he said. "And we saw the blood spray. And we saw him just start pouring out, right there, and he was on the ground."
The witness was with his wife and little girl in their car when the beating happened. The family is now planning to move out of the area.
"I can't believe we saw something like that," he said. "It was unimaginable - just complete and blatant disregard for human life."
The teen's girlfriend, Herminia Clemente, told KATU News that Chavez-Garcia was trying to get away from bad influences.
"He's been staying home lately, taking care of his brothers," she said. "He told me he was trying to stay away from it."
"I know he's only 15 years old and I believe in second chances and all that, but I believe this kid needs to be put away," the witness said.
The highly publicized story prompted TriMet to announce it plans to expand security on its transit system, including adding more Wackenhut security guards and surveying its property to increase lighting and add surveillance cameras.