A 25-year-old man allegedly viciously beat a disabled senior citizen at the Bellevue Transit Center in Washington two days after authorities released the attacker from prison on a sexual assault conviction.
The elderly man later died from his injuries in the hospital on Tuesday.
“It’s one of the most disturbing cases that we’ve seen this year, and we see a lot of disturbing cases every day,” Casey McNerthney, a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, told KIRO7.
On July 10, Eric Larson, 63, was sitting in his wheelchair shortly after midnight when Gabriel Vargas-Garcia, 25, allegedly began pacing up and down nearby, according to court documents.
Surveillance footage shows Vargas-Garcia allegedly approaching Larson and knocking his wheelchair over before repeatedly kicking him and stomping on his head. Then, despite Larson appearing unconscious, Vargas-Garcia allegedly viciously beat the 63-year-old for at least 90 seconds.
When authorities arrived to transport Larson to a nearby hospital, reports said the attack had left the elderly man bloodied and with a fractured skull.
“Oh, my goodness,” Kai Baylon, Bellevue resident, told KIRO7 as she looked at a photo of Larson. “Why? Do they know the reason?”
Authorities said Larson and Vargas-Garcia were not connected, calling the attack unprovoked.
When police tracked down Vargas-Garcia, they discovered he had only been out of prison for less than 48 hours after serving 15 months for sexual assault.
“This is a disturbing case where someone gets out of jail with the statewide sentencing guidelines that are set by state lawmakers,” McNerthney said.
McNerthney said that Vargas-Garcia would likely get a long prison sentence if authorities find him guilty since he has a previous conviction.
Authorities are currently holding Vargas-Garcia on $750,000 bail.
Safewise, a national crime and safety survey conductor, reports the city of Bellevue missed the cut as one of the 20 safest cities in Washington. However, statewide, the survey shows violent crime experiences rose about 10% in 2022 — climbing for the third consecutive year.
“Aggravated assault is the most prevalent violent crime, accounting for 64% of reported crimes, versus 70% nationally,” the report reads. “Washington sees fewer murders statewide than most of the country, but murder accounts for a slightly smaller percentage of violent crimes in the safest cities (1% versus 2% nationwide).”
“68% of Washington residents believe that crime is on the rise, up from 64% the previous year,” the report added.
Tyler Devert, a resident of Seattle, told KIRO7 he sees “violence happening more and more,” like shootings on public transportation in both his home city and Bellevue.
Bellevue Transit Center visitors said they often saw Larson at the center sitting in his wheelchair.
Bellevue resident Jake Walden called Larson “a nice guy.”
“He’s never bothered anybody,” Walden told KIRO7. “He’s a nice guy — I haven’t talked to him personally — but he always minds his own business.”
Larson’s family reportedly said he seemed to have been recovering after doctors took him off the ventilator until he died on Tuesday afternoon.