SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A transient accused of attacking an 83-year-old man in the parking lot of a Santa Ana restaurant was charged on Tuesday with assault and elder abuse.
Demarrea Chante Barnes, 29, pleaded not guilty to the charges stemming from the Friday morning attack, which was captured on surveillance video and left the victim hospitalized with critical injuries.
Barnes was charged with a felony count of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and one count of elder and dependent-adult abuse for the alleged beating of Tuan Nguyen. Barnes’ bail was set at $100,000. He was ordered to return to court for an Oct. 7 pretrial hearing.
Outside of the courtroom, Barnes’ aunt, Wilda Wright, apologized to the family of the victim.
“We just want to say we’re sorry, and we apologize and we pray that your grandfather gets better,” Wright said. “And I just pray to Jesus that from the crown of his head to the toes of his feet that he is healed in Jesus’ name. We apologize because this is out of character for my nephew. … This is not him. This is not the Demarrea we know, the Demarrea we raised. This is not him.”
The defendants’ family said he has suffered from mental illness since childhood but has no problems when he is on his medication.
The victim’s son, Pete Nguyen, said his father, Tuyen, is undergoing an “amazing recovery” and is expected to be transferred from a hospital to a nursing facility in the next two days for longtime care.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, the charges against Barnes include a sentencing enhancement for allegedly causing great bodily injury.
Prosecutors also said Barnes has three prior convictions, for drug possession in 2005 and 2008 and assault on a peace officer in 2012. He faces up to 13 years in prison if convicted.
The victim was attacked about 6:10 a.m. Friday after getting out of his vehicle in the parking lot of the Emerald Bay Restaurant, 5015 W. Edinger Ave., where a man walked up to him and repeatedly punched and kicked him, knocking him to the ground.
Prosecutors said the man suffered broken facial bones and a brain hemorrhage. He is expected to recover, but may lose sight in one eye, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
There was no apparent motive for the attack because the suspect did not take anything from the victim, Bertagna said.
The victim “has been going there for 15 years to get his morning coffee,” and his family reported that he recognized Barnes as a transient who frequented the area, Bertagna said. The victim has offered to help the transient in the past, but otherwise they do not know each other, according to Bertagna.
“I think he has offered (the defendant) coffee before,” Nguyen said. “He said he remembers giving him his coffee before.”
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