Local News

Thursday, Jul 11 2013 08:00 PM

Muralist accused of attempted murder blamed racism for his arrest

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Bail was set at $600,000 for muralist Antonio Saldana on charges of attempted murder.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Antonio Saldana had a simple explanation for why numerous patrons identified him as the person who stabbed a customer at a downtown bar.

They're racist and don't like him because he's Mexican, he told police.

Saldana, 46, has pleaded not guilty to charges including attempted murder after allegedly stabbing a Guthrie's Alley Cat patron with what police described in redacted reports as a window scraper with a four-inch blade. He's being held on $600,000 bail.

Saldana has painted numerous murals downtown, including some artwork in the Alley Cat.

Police were provided Saldana's name and description soon after arriving at the Alley Cat about 5:30 p.m. July 2, the reports say. Officers saw blood on the floor of the bar, and blood was seeping through bandages placed on the head and neck of the victim.

Doctors later told police that the victim had a cut to his neck that was potentially life-threatening and they needed to perform emergency surgery, according to the reports. The man, whose name was not included in the reports, survived.

Customers and bar staff said Saldana and the victim had been in a physical altercation earlier in the evening in the breezeway just west of the bar area, the reports say Saldana was told to leave the bar and not come back for the rest of the day.

Saldana apologized and left, but returned 10 to 15 minutes later. Patrons and the bartender said Saldana entered the bar, looked around and saw the victim by the ATM in the northeast corner of the establishment.

He approached the victim from behind and began assaulting him, the reports say. Patrons at first thought Saldana was only punching the man, but after he was pulled off him they noticed the window scraper in his hand and that the victim was bleeding profusely.

The reports say Saldana hit the victim a half dozen times and knocked him to the ground.

After being thrown out of the bar, Saldana walked to his vehicle and drove to his home in the 1500 block of Glenwood Drive. The reports say his wife came home to find him wearing nothing but a towel and throwing items in their pool.

Saldana placed the shorts he'd been wearing in the sink with bleach and water. He appeared angry, and when his wife asked him what he was doing he said, "Purifying everything," according to the reports.

Police arrived at the residence and questioned him. They asked where he'd been that day.

Saldana said he'd gone to Jerry's Pizza and had a few drinks there, and then left to get a tattoo, the reports said. Later he went to the Alley Cat where he shot pool and continued drinking.

He told officers he couldn't remember having been in a fight, and said he didn't know where the scrapes on his hands and shoulders came from. Officers then told him he'd been identified as stabbing someone at the bar.

Saldana told police people named him as the suspect because he's Mexican and "everyone at the Alley Cat is white and racist."

Saldana is scheduled for a preliminary hearing July 19.

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