Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Dan Garcia, whose father founded Garcia’s Kitchen, isn’t angry.
In fact, he made the pews and pews of people at St. Therese Catholic Church laugh Sunday night.
“We’re just hard-working people trying to sell beans and chile,” he said jovially.
Garcia was one of several speakers at a community meeting co-sponsored by Albuquerque Interfaith and the NM Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice that followed a string of vandalism last month targeting immigrant or Hispanic-owned businesses.
He remembered getting a call from an alarm company last month, alerting him that his business – and he would later learn 10 others – had been vandalized.
Police said at the time that a photocopied, handwritten note to the “Mexican Mafia” was left at the restaurants.
Garcia told the church that rather than anger for the man police initially said was responsible, he has sympathy.
Officers told him that they recognized the person caught on surveillance video throwing a rock through a window.
Edelidio Wallace, 58, is facing criminal damage to property charges linked to two vandalized businesses, according to court documents. Last month, police said they thought he was linked to several more of the incidents.
It is not clear whether Wallace may eventually face additional charges, and a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office did not respond to an inquiry about the case Thursday.
Albuquerque police officer Simon Drobik said last month that Wallace, who lists his address as a homeless shelter Downtown, is well-known to police, and officers have repeatedly worked to connect him with mental health services.
“I hope somehow he can get help,” Garcia said.
That sentiment was echoed by Maria Ledesma whose restaurant Paleteria La Reina de Michocan was also vandalized.
She said she does not judge the person who targeted her business.
Mental health resources and immigrant justice were big topics of discussion at the forum Sunday night, with representatives from churches, the Hopkins Center and others advocating for more accessible resources in New Mexico and Albuquerque.
The meeting ended with a call to action for community members to support the vandalized businesses, exercise their right to vote and to get involved with immigrant advocacy groups.