Fresno police have identified the man arrested for stabbing the three people during the 'Defend Armenia' demonstration near the River Park Shopping Center as 41-year-old Jaime Fonseca.
The incident happened at the intersection of Blackstone and Nees Avenues, where about 150 demonstrators had blocked off the northbound lanes of Blackstone about 6:40 pm.
Police say several drivers were upset about traffic being blocked by the rally.
That's when Fonseca came out of his vehicle and had a verbal exchange with the protesters, police say.
"He was cussing us out and threatening us that he is going to damage our cars and also kill us," said Katarina Melikian, who was at the rally.
In a witness video shared with Action News, you can see Fonseca first rips the group's banner.
Police say he went back to his vehicle, pulled out a wooden stick and began swinging it violently at the protesters.
As demonstrators attempted to fend him off, he allegedly pulled out a knife and started slashing.
Stunned witnesses and other drivers watched and recorded the chaotic scene.
One of the victims was slashed in the arm, another in the chest, and a third's finger was sliced. Police say the victims are three young men between the ages of 18 and 26. They are all expected to recover.
Police say Fonseca then allegedly drove off through the River Park Shopping Center, ramming into cars in his way.
He was found by officers a short time later. The knife and wooden stick were also located.
"He was just angry because of the traffic and the disturbance. He got out of the car. It was never established that it was motivated by anything other than frustration," said Fresno Police Captain Mindy Castro.
UPDATE: Police say four cars blocked off Blackstone northbound at Nees which upset drivers. The suspect stopped and confronted them before pulling out a stick and a knife. Police say he then started “swinging the knife violently”slashing three men. @ABC30 pic.twitter.com/IKFPlSoekQ— Gilbert Magallon (@GilbertABC30) October 29, 2020
Demonstrators were left in shock and saddened their message was lost and their demonstration marred.
"We don't stand for hate at all. We stand against hate, we stand against racism," said Sosi Dzhugarrian.
"People are going to pay more attention to this than what we are trying to bring awareness to, which is Armenia, so it makes us angry and mad, but we didn't do anything violent back to him," added another demonstrator, Sona Danielyan.
Demonstrators say this won't discourage their cause.
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"We are not going to stop fighting for our country," said Katarina Melikian.
Police say Fonseca faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon.
On Thursday afternoon, the demonstrators released the following statement:
We are the voice of the Armenian community.
We have been protesting against Turkish and Azerbaijani aggression, to sanction Turkey, to kick Turkey out of NATO, and to not allow SpaceX to send the TurkSat 5A Turkish satellite into orbit. We Want the media to be there as well helping us spread the news and awareness on what has been going on in the Armenian community. They've all been peaceful protests with no incidents up until last night.
The guy came out of his car with a stick in his right hand and an illegal sized knife in his left hand. He was yelling and cursing at Armenians saying that "I hope you all die." He came straight to the poster in which two underage girls were holding and ripped it with his knife. At that same second, our guys saw the girls poster ripped and approached the male and told him to calm down and go back to his vehicle, and that we will move the cars in a few minutes. He did not listen and with rage continued to curse and degrade Armenians. This was an act of HATE CRIME. As our guys tried to lower his stick the man's left hand still was swinging with the knife clenched tightly in his hand. This was when three of our guys were injured due to the knife. After inflicting three people the suspect went straight to his car and drove off and managed to hit a car on the way. We were only there to use our first amendment rights and spread awareness. Like mentioned before we blocked 4 of the 6 lanes to get the police departments attention to stand with us and have the families protesting feel safe. This will not stop the Armenian community from spreading awareness and using our rights. We still have to speak up to get Turkey out oF NATO, sanction Turkey, and stop SpaceX to send the TurkSat 5A Turkish satellite into orbit.