A Chicago man who went to Indiana in search for work ended up having his life changed in a way he never expected.
Elree Jones was brutally attacked shortly after stopping at a Lafayette, Ind., convenience store on a late-night beer run on Aug. 30.
“My face. I couldn’t feel it. But when I look at my arm, it really hit me,” the 34-year-old father of three recalled Wednesday from his home.
He said he was talking on the phone in the store shortly after 2 o’clock that ill-fated morning when a man walked in, walked straight toward him, and attacked with a knife he estimates was about seven inches long.
“He just slashed my face. I still had my phone in my hand. He slashed my face and I dropped the phone,” he said. “After he slashed my face, I was in shock. He kept going, so I was blocking him… he slashed me in my arm.
Jones was able to get away and ran out the store, but his attacker followed. Jones said he had hatred in his eyes and venom spewing from his mouth.
“He mumbled racial slurs… like he’ll kill me. ‘I’ll kill this n****r,'” Jones recalled.
Somehow, Jones managed to stumble to a friend’s house nearly a mile away. He was quickly losing blood by the time police arrived.
When police first questioned him, Jones said they assumed he’d done something to provoke his attacker, but surveillance cameras that blanket the store apparently show a starkly different and chilling story.
“The white guy walked over. The black guy didn’t even look up like there was a problem. Nothing. And then you see the guy take out a knife and just lunge at him,” recalled Amber, a clerk at the store.
Amber said she saw the surveillance video after her manager brought her back to clean the bloody scene.
She branded the attack a hate crime.
“It’s just sad that there is so much hate in the world. And another person could have no compassion for a human life. We all bleed the same,” she tearfully recalled.
Police used that surveillance video to track down 50-year-old Mark Neal, who’s since been charged with four felonies. Authorities said they’re looking into whether the incident can be classified as a hate crime, but said little else about their investigation.
Jones has his life, but it’s changed forever. Four times a day, a nurse — his sister — applies ointment to his scar to prevent infection. He no longer has a tear duct in his right eye. Doctors inserted a synthetic tube to help with the tearing process, but he still drips tears uncontrollably and his sister isn’t sure it’ll ever heal properly.
A plastic surgeon sutured up his face. The stitches may come out on Friday, but the dressing on his arm will remain for at least another week.
“I was shocked. I was hurt. I wanted to cry, but I had to be strong for him,” said Jones’ sister, Roshonda Jones, a geriatric nurse at Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center.
She said the incident has changed her brother in more ways than just physically.
“My brother was always the life of the party, easy going and easy to get along with,” she said. “Now he’s sort of solemn. He doesn’t want to go out, and I don’t know what it is, but every now and then he’ll mumble, ‘That guy tried to kill me.'”
As for the man that attacked her brother, Jones said she hopes he’s locked away for good.
“He had my brother down like a dog,” she said. “I want this man to never see the light of day ever again. He has to be caged like the animal he is.”
Neal is currently being held in the Tippecanoe County (Indiana) Jail on a $25,000 cash or surety bond.