Police release photos of suspect in 71-year-old’s unprovoked stabbing at trolley stop

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EL CAJON, Calif. — Police released photos Thursday of a man they suspect in the brutal, unprovoked stabbing of a 71-year-old East County man at a trolley stop earlier this month.

Jose Serra was standing at the Arnele Avenue Station in El Cajon early on Nov. 3 when he was targeted in the “random and unprovoked stabbing,” according to El Cajon Police Department. When officers found him, they say Serra “had numerous life-threatening stab wounds and had been severely slashed across his face.”

“The victim’s ear was nearly severed off and he had lost a significant amount of blood,” ECPD wrote in a news release.

Police say they got surveillance video of the vicious assault and that they were able to identify the attacker as 24-year-old Israel Ezekiel Valdivia, a convicted felon who was recently released early from a prison sentence under supervision. Valdivia had already violated his probation conditions and had a warrant out for his arrest, ECPD said.

Authorities released the photos Thursday in hopes the public can help officers bring him into custody. They described Valdivia as a Hispanic man, 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighing around 180 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes and a “medium build.” Valdivia has numerous tattoos on his body, as well as a large “V” tattoo on his face.

While authorities search for the suspected attacker, loved ones are helping the victim with a painful recovery. Community groups and neighbors are contributing to a GoFundMe started by Serra’s friend and coworker, Todd Jones, to help cover the elder’s extensive medical costs.

Serra suffered injuries to his hand, arm, stomach and head, nearly losing his ear. He has been treated in a hospital ICU and placed on a ventilator, according to Jones.

“I told him ‘don’t worry about anything, just get better,'” he told FOX 5 Thursday.

“He’s a guy that would never hurt a fly at all,” Jones continued. “He stays to himself … and his health hasn’t been good lately. Some things have happened to him lately and that makes him kind of vulnerable.”

Representatives with a local advocacy group say the attack on a vulnerable Filipino in the later stages of their life is a worryingly familiar story.

“This is part of the national trend that we have been seeing and there is a national campaign to stop Asian Pacific Islander hate, and here in the county of San Diego in just this year this is the second incident of violence against an elderly Filipino. Both are in their 70s and we need to take a stand,” said JoAnn Fields, with the Filipino Resource Center.

“When you see an uptick in one community, we should be paying attention we don’t want that to keep rising.”

Police say their investigation is ongoing but they do not think the attack was a race-motivated hate crime.

Last March, San Diego County officials and groups including Fields’ gathered to condemn a general rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans nationwide.

The Filipino Resource Center says it will also hold a news conference near the trolley station on Friday morning.

Anyone who sees Valdivia was asked not to make contact with him. Instead, notify police, because the felon is considered armed and dangerous, ECPD said.

Authorities asked tipsters to contact the police department at 619-579-3311 or San Diego County Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477. You can also report information online.

FOX 5’s Matt Meyer contributed to this report.

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