When Harold Williams needed to answer nature’s call on March 16, he asked the employees of a Florida market if he could use their bathroom.
The Bahamian native said he received permission, but then one of the employees of Pines Market stabbed him in the face when he attempted to use the facilities.
Williams says he believes the incident was racially motivated and wants charges against his attacker increased from aggravated battery to attempted manslaughter or attempted murder, according to NBC Miami.
“I don’t know what motivated him to attack me, but I watch the news in the United States and I see how black and brown people are treated, and I can’t help but wonder if he stabbed me in the face because of the color of my skin,” Williams said, according to the station.
There’s a sign posted at Pines Market that reads, “No public restroom. Do not cross beyond this point,” but Williams said he didn’t see the sign and that the two clerks on duty gave him permission to use the bathroom. One employee, 24-year-old Fawaz Hassan, accompanied him to the rear of the market, according to CBS Miami.
On the way to the restroom, Williams says, Hassan reached out toward his face and struck him. Williams said he first thought Hassan had punched him but quickly realized the employee had stabbed him in his left cheek.
He described the weapon as a kitchen knife between 8 and 10 inches long.
“The only thing I asked was to use the restroom, and I was attacked. The man nearly took my life,” Williams said.
Williams’ attorney Jasmine Rand told CBS Miami that surveillance video supports her client’s story.
“There is video evidence of my client entering the store. The video evidence before he was stabbed and after he was stabbed it is very clear that my client was not committing any crime,” she said. “My client was unarmed, unprovoked, and it’s unjustifiable.”
Surveillance video showed Williams entering the business and then retreating with his hands up after being stabbed, police said.
“I didn’t say anything to him. I just said, ‘Sorry, I wanted to use the restroom,’” Williams told local station WPLG TV.
Williams made it to a nearby urgent care center, where employees did a CAT scan. Although the knifing didn’t damage any vitals, Williams said his doctor told him he may need surgery to repair the muscle in his jaw.
Police took Hassan into custody and charged him with aggravated battery.
Hassan’s attorney Eric Schwartzreich claims his client felt the need for self-defense when Williams attempted to go to the back of the business, according to the Florida Sun-Sentinel.
“He had to defend himself and stabbed the victim in the face,” Schwartzreich said. “It was not a random attack. He’s not a psychopath. It wasn’t done for any racial animus. It was done because of what [Hassan] perceived to be a need for a legal self-defense.”
There was no evidence that Williams had a weapon or intended to commit a crime in the business, investigators said.