Belmont-Cragin community comes to the aid of beaten and robbed food cart vendor – NBC Chicago

Gonzalo Garcia was nearly done with work for the day on December 2, selling corn and other food from his cart in the community of Belmont-Cragin.

He had moved closer to 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 taking 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 originally 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 during an interview on Tuesday. “They hit me so I couldn’t run after them.”

He was taken in an ambulance to Community First Medical Center, spending hours being treated for his injuries. A hospital employee requested that Garcia’s medical expenses 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 stand, Correa, 16, passed him almost daily on the way to his bus stop, said ITW junior David Speer Academy, a public school chartered.

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

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

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

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

But after talking on the phone and meeting in person at the same location where Garcia was attacked, he welcomed 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 does for me.”

Correa said a few of his friends saw the attack happen, 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, Speer’s vice principal, confirmed that the school learned the attackers were Prosser’s students.

Prosser principal 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 of the families of the people they attack first and “never do that again.”

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