Family Wants Justice After Elderly Los Angeles Couple’s Attacker Goes Free

Family Wants Justice After Elderly Los Angeles Couple’s Attacker Goes Free

The McDonald's on Soto Street in Los Angeles in February 2023. (Google Maps / Screenshot via California Insider)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

5/21/2024

Updated: 5/22/2024

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The family of an elderly couple from East Los Angeles who were allegedly attacked by a homeless man March 9 at a McDonald’s drive-through are asking for justice after the suspect was cited and released.
The attack left one of the victims, Maria Vargas Luna, 58, brain dead, the family said.
Her husband, Jose Juan Rangel Hernandez, 74, was in the driver’s seat of his car at about 10:30 a.m. waiting in the drive-through at 245 N. Soto St. when he says a transient began punching him through his open window.
“He started beating me three or four times,” Mr. Hernandez told NBC4, crying as he talked about the attack.
Mr. Hernandez exited the car to fight back and ended up struggling with the man on the cement behind his vehicle.
Surveillance video shared by news media shows Ms. Vargas Luna, who is partially blind, leaving the passenger side of the car and slowly walking over to the men in what looked like an attempt to intervene. She was bumped by the suspect and hit the cement with the back of her head.
Ms. Luna was taken to the hospital and released but had to return a week later. According to Fox11, Ms. Luna allegedly suffered a heart attack en route to the hospital but was revived by paramedics. She suffered a second heart attack at home, her family told the news station.
She is now brain dead, according to her family.
Police arrested Charles Cornelius Green Jr., 35, the day of the attack. He was charged by District Attorney George Gascón’s office with one felony battery count and one misdemeanor count of battery, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
His bail was initially set at $50,000.
Mr. Green was released on March 12 on his own recognizance, which doesn’t require posting bail, after the district attorney’s office reviewed surveillance video of the attack and determined Ms. Luna’s fall to be accidental, LAPD Officer Norma Eisenmantold The Epoch Times.
“Therefore, the felony charge was dropped,” Ms. Eisenman said.
Ms. Luna’s family said justice was not served in the case as they talked with reporters Monday outside the University of Southern California (USC) Medical Center.
“She’s my life,” her husband told NBC4.
Ms. Luna’s grandson said his family wants justice.
“That was his forever partner,” her grandson William Cantabrana told the news station. “I want what my whole family wants--and that’s justice. And for it to not just be a waste of life.”
Mr. Hernandez joined family members calling on Mr. Gascón to reconsider the case against the suspect after doctors told them there was no hope for his wife.
“The guy is free,” he said. “They catch him and they let him go.”
The district attorney’s office did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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