Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Friday, February 17, 2012
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Soup kitchen fight ends in 9 head staples

Donald Hubbard returned to St. Mary's Soup Kitchen on Thursday wearing nine staples in the back of his head from the violence that broke out at the Flagler Avenue charity the day before.

The incident sent two to the hospital Wednesday evening: Hubbard, who was cracked on the head with a large rock several times, and 84-year-old volunteer director of the kitchen Angela McClain, who was cut on her right forearm with an unknown object, possibly a small knife or a box cutter.

"She protected me," Hubbard said of McClain. "Dude was swinging to get me. Angela saw the knife and blocked it and got cut. She kept me from getting cut."

Silvio Hernandez, 49, was jailed on a felony charge of using a deadly weapon, allegedly a rock larger than a softball, witnesses said.

Key West police Thursday were still searching for a second suspect, who allegedly wielded the small knife that hit McClain. Police spokeswoman Alyson Crean said at 7 p.m. Thursday that the second suspect's identity had been confirmed and an arrest warrant for him was being prepared.

Hubbard and McClain were treated and released.

The attacks were the first of their kind in the soup kitchen's history, said volunteers and men and women who rely on the charity for a daily meal. The alleged attackers weren't regulars, some witnesses said.

"They were new, brand new," said a man who declined to give his name, but said he has been in Key West for 15 years.

Asked if there was ever violence at the soup kitchen, the man replied, "Never. Not even fistfights," before returning to the pages of a Carl Hiaasen novel.

McClain didn't return messages seeking comment Thursday, and she told police she did not want to press charges. She has run the soup kitchen for years as a volunteer director, and is there every Wednesday, but rarely on Thursdays, volunteers said.

The soup kitchen started 35 years ago at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church when hungry people began knocking on the doors.

Joe Perez, 83, has been volunteering once a week for more than 20 years and said there never has been anything like the violence that broke out Wednesday.

While there's no security at the soup kitchen, Perez said he wouldn't mind someone keeping watch while the work goes down from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Meals are served at 4 p.m. seven days a week.

Perez and other volunteers Thursday said they are not rattled by the violence, which they said is an anomaly from what takes place there daily -- the simple serving of food to the hungry.

On Thursday, the charity, which is fueled by donations, served up pork and black beans with rice. Trays filled with donated pastries also awaited the hungry.

At a lanky 6-foot-6, Hubbard, 46, who is homeless in Key West, said he was the intended target of four Hispanic men who were brand new to the soup kitchen on Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm not going to lie," said Hubbard, a native of Atlantic City, N.J., who has been in Key West for three years.

It started over line-cutting. The four Hispanic men had cut in line and when Hubbard cried foul, one took a swing at him, he said. Hubbard punched back. "I knocked him out," Hubbard said, adding he went inside the kitchen to get help for the stranger he had laid out.

Then Hubbard got his plate of hot food and sat down at one of the tables outside. That's when the soup kitchen's longtime volunteer director, McClain, came over to investigate, approaching Hubbard to talk.

Only McClain saw the man swinging the knife, according to Hubbard and other witnesses gathered at the soup kitchen Thursday.

She raised her arm in defense of the attacker, receiving a 1-inch-long cut to the forearm, witnesses said.

The attackers knew full well that McClain was in danger when they came up, Hubbard said.

"They used her as their shield," Hubbard said.

As people rushed to check on McClain, Hernandez allegedly took advantage of the distraction and began smashing Hubbard over the head with the rock.

Hubbard said neither of the attackers included his line-cutting rival.

"He had no reason to hit me with a rock," Hubbard said of Hernandez. "I've never seen the guy before. I'm not scared of anybody. I don't like bullies. They wanted to be bullies, a pack."

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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