(HIALEAH, Fla.) — Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday morning that one of his campaign canvassers “was brutally attacked” in what he later described as a politically motivated assault.
Police are sharing few details about the incident so far, but they confirmed someone had been arrested.
In a tweet and subsequent comments at a campaign appearance, Rubio said the canvasser suffered a broken jaw and internal bleeding in the altercation, in Hialeah, Florida.
“We know that someone wearing a Rubio shirt and a [Gov. Ron] DeSantis hat was walking in the neighborhood not far from here yesterday when four individuals assaulted him,” Rubio said at a get-out-the-vote rally in Hialeah on Monday afternoon.
The senator also tweeted graphic photos of what he said were the injuries the man received, writing that the victim’s assailants “told him Republicans weren’t allowed in their neighborhood.”
Asked to confirm the incident Rubio described and to share further details, Hialeah police said in a statement that their officers had arrested Javier Lopez after responding to a “fight” on Sunday night where they located a 27-year-old victim with “multiple bruises and a laceration” who had been “passing out fliers.”
“Mr. Lopez told the victim he was not allowed to walk on the sidewalk and pass out fliers in his neighborhood,” police claimed in their statement. “The victim, in order to avoid the confrontation walked across the street where he was again confronted by Mr. Lopez. During the verbal dispute, Mr. Lopez then struck the victim multiple times in the face and head causing the injuries.”
Hialeah police did not respond to questions about the fliers the victim was distributing or about what the suspect may have specifically said to the victim.
Police also did not say what charge or charges Lopez is being held on or if he remained in custody.
It’s unclear if he has retained an attorney who can comment on his behalf.
A local Republican Party official confirmed to ABC News that the injured man is a former member of the Miami-Dade GOP Executive Committee.
“The attack on a Republican canvasser is catastrophic, uncalled for and unprecedented. … We demand the perpetrators be caught, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Kevin Cooper, campaign director for Miami-Dade Republicans.
In a statement on social media, Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo Jr. echoed Rubio in decrying what happened: “Freedom of speech is the bedrock of our democracy, and cowardly acts such as this should be condemned by all regardless of individual political affiliation.”
“I have spoken to the victim’s family, and have pledged a thorough investigation,” Bovo said.
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