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After stabbing Target, 9-year-old boy will spend Thanksgiving in a Los Angeles hospital

There will be an empty chair at a Koreatown family’s Thanksgiving dinner Thursday night.

Normally, Brayden Medina’s extended family gathers at his aunt and uncle’s house in the neighborhood to celebrate the holiday. But this year, the 9-year-old will spend Thanksgiving in a hospital bed, recovering from a stab wound that affected his ability to walk.

Just over a week ago, the boy was shopping with his mother at a Target store in downtown Los Angeles when, in an unprovoked attack, a man confronted Brayden and told him that was going to stab him and kill him. The boy tried to flee but was stabbed in the back.

The assailant, who has not been identified, then stabbed a young woman in the chest, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. When the suspect, who police believe may have been homeless, tried to stab a security guard, the guard shot him.

Since that day, Brayden has been recovering in a hospital in Los Angeles. Brayden’s parents have not publicly discussed the attack and its effect on their family, and they asked that the hospital where Brayden is being treated not be named for privacy reasons.

After the attack, Brayden’s older brother Jessi said their mother tried to act “strong and brave”, so as “not to show me she was sad and in pain”. His parents tried to comfort him. But he knew.

When he first spoke to his baby brother by phone, the 14-year-old said he tried to distract Brayden from the horrifying attack.

“But out of nowhere he became sad. He said, ‘Jessi, they stabbed me in the back’ and then he got really sad and he started crying,” Jessi recalled. “To be honest, I kind of lost it.”

The brothers cried together.

“It’s like a scar from life,” Brayden’s cousin Lizzette Molina said. “What he went through will always stay with him throughout his life.”

Lizzette Molina with her cousin Brayden, 9.

(Lizzette Molina)

The 24-year-old woman who was stabbed in the chest is still recovering in hospital, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said. Last week it was listed as critical but stable.

Because Brayden’s injuries were so severe, Molina said, only his parents were able to visit him.

“We just want to go see it,” Molina, 20, said days before Thanksgiving. “That’s all we want.”

On Nov. 15, Brayden and his mother had taken a bus from their home in Koreatown to the Target location at 7th and Figueroa streets in the FIGat7th mall. Brayden had wanted to buy the game of life for a very long time, but his parents were busy working, his mother as a hotel cleaner and his father in a kitchen preparing food.

Finally, on this bright and clear Tuesday, their mother had time to take Brayden to the store to pick up the game, Jessi said.

As Brayden and his mother were shopping that evening, a man in his 40s entered the store unarmed and headed for the kitchen utensil department. It was there that he unwrapped a large butcher’s knife, Moore said in an interview.

Brayden was walking alone at the time, heading to his mother at the checkout so they could pay for their purchases. The board game was already in the family basket.

It was then that the knife-wielding man confronted the 9-year-old.

The suspect repeatedly told Brayden he was going to stab and kill him, Moore said at a news conference after the attack. The boy tried to run to safety, but the man, “without further provocation, suddenly attacked and stabbed this young child… knocking him to the ground,” Moore said.

The attack left a deep laceration on Brayden’s left shoulder. A 26-year-old woman tried to help him and was slightly injured, police said.

The suspect walked away, then stabbed the 24-year-old “brutally in the chest”, Moore said. Good Samaritans came to her aid, he said, and took her to a nearby pharmacy “to make sure the attack wouldn’t continue.”

The assailant then proceeded to the front of the store, where he was confronted by an armed security guard, the chief said. The security guard opened fire at least once, hitting the knife-wielding man in the stomach.

He was later pronounced dead in a hospital.

“I’m grateful to Target security, for their uniformed officer who was there,” Moore told The Times. “It was this armed guard in uniform who was there who intervened and stopped this murderous assault.”

Following the attack, Moore said, the LAPD accelerated the launch of its holiday deployment plan, increasing the number of uniformed officers at malls and other busy locations during the season.

Moore said police are continuing to investigate the assailant’s background and said he had a “minimal arrest history”. Police found him an address in the San Fernando area, but believe he hadn’t lived there for some time.

The chief added that police were unable to identify the suspect’s prior involvement with mental health professionals or treatment, “or what could have accounted for this vicious attack.”

He said he hoped Brayden and the 24-year-old can leave hospital “and make a full recovery”.

“They’re still in the woods, in the sense that they’re still hospitalized,” Moore said.

Molina said they don’t know how long Brayden will stay in the hospital. He started physical therapy and doctors continued to test him this week.

“They still haven’t confirmed to us what the long-term effects are and how it’s going to be going forward,” Molina said. “I don’t know how long it will take my cousin to heal, but we will all be there for him.”

Brayden, the youngest of three boys, is “definitely the baby of our family,” Molina said. She described him as energetic, adventurous and caring.

She came home from UC Riverside last weekend, she recalls feeling depressed and her little cousin focused on comforting her. He told her to kick a ball they had in the house to make her feel better. Then, to distract her, he offered to watch a movie.

When Molina heard about what had happened to her cousin, she said she was “heartbroken”.

“It really hurt me to hear that my baby, my cousin that I love so much, had to go through this very horrific experience,” she said. “I got home as soon as I could.”

To try to help her family, Molina started a GoFundMe page, which raised over $36,000. Molina expects this to help her a lot, as her aunt and uncle have taken time off to be with Brayden.

His uncle will likely return to work soon, as “they don’t have the luxury of taking vacations because of our situation,” Molina said.

She added that the family is grateful and overwhelmed by the support they have received. She didn’t expect to raise so much money in such a short time, she said.

“[Brayden] already knew the world wasn’t a very good place before he got injured,” Molina said. “He already knows that a lot of bad exists in the world, but I hope with this GoFundMe page he can see and realize that even though the world is bad, there are also good people.”

Los Angeles Times

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