Beaten and Stolen Food Cart Vendor; The community of Belmont-Cragin intervenes to help him

Gonzalo Garcia was about to finish his job for the day of December 2, selling corn and other food from his cart in the community of Belmont-Cragin.

He had approached the bus loop just east of the Chicago Fire Station in the 5200 block of West Grand Avenue to sell a few last items before catching a bus home.

At around 4:05 p.m., several students also waiting for a bus attacked him, said Garcia, 58, who lives in the area and is from Veracruz, Mexico. They punched him in the face and body with closed fists, and when Garcia fell to the ground and his blood covered the sidewalk, they stole about $ 300 from his pocket, Garcia said.

“I don’t know who they were,” Garcia said in Spanish in an interview on Tuesday. “They hit me so I couldn’t go after them.”

He was taken in an ambulance to Community First Medical Center, where he spent hours being treated for his injuries. A hospital employee requested that Garcia’s medical bills be covered by the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act.

The next day, photos and videos of the attack began to appear on Brenda Correa’s social media. Although she never bought anything from Garcia’s booth, Correa, 16, walked past him almost every day on his way to his bus stop, ITW junior David Speer Academy said, a public charter school.

Even from her brief interactions with Garcia, Correa said she could tell he was “such a great human being.”

With the support of his school, Correa took to social media to track down Garcia and raise funds to cover what he lost in the attack.

“I have a lot of families who come from the bottom, who came from Mexico, who came here and built themselves,” Correa said. “I can just tell by looking at him, he wants to build himself and make a name for himself.”

Initially, Garcia was reluctant to accept Correa’s help, showing “how selfless he is,” Correa said.

But after speaking on the phone and meeting in person at the same location Garcia was attacked, he praised Correa’s mission to help him.

“I feel like she’s an angel,” Garcia said. “I don’t know how to thank her for what she’s doing for me.”

Brenda Correa, 16, and Gonzalo Garcia speak on camera Tuesday for a GoFundMe campaign near the scene where Garcia was attacked by students while selling food. Correa is helping Garcia by setting up a GoFundMe to help cover the costs associated with the attack.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Correa said a few of his friends saw the attack happening, seeing as many as three or four attackers. Some students at Prosser Career Academy, a Chicago public school across from Speer, said the attackers were classmates who also attended their high school, Correa said.

Cassandra Hannah, deputy principal of Speer, confirmed that the school learned that the attackers were students of Prosser.

Prosser’s manager, Sandra Shimon, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Back where he was beaten, Garcia said he was scared and “didn’t feel confident”. Selling food from his cart is Garcia’s main source of income, but after what happened last week, he said he plans to look for other jobs or, at the very least, to sell elsewhere.

To his attackers, Garcia said they should think about the families of the people they attack first and “never do it again.”

“It’s not cool for students to act this way,” Garcia said. “But I wish God would forgive them because I forgive them too.”

An online fundraiser for Garcia, at gofund.me/08f17355, had raised about $ 14,000 on Wednesday night.