BOSTON (AP) — Donald Trump on Friday denounced a violent attack against a homeless Hispanic man in Boston whose attacker told police he was inspired, in part, by Trump's rhetoric that people in the country illegally should be deported. It was a change in tone for the Republican presidential candidate, who's known for his incendiary remarks.
"Boston incident is terrible. We need energy and passion, but we must treat each other with respect," Trump tweeted after coming under criticism for failing to condemn the attack more strongly. "I would never condone violence."
Scott and Steve Leader were arrested early Wednesday on charges they beat a 58-year-old Hispanic man while he slept near a Boston train station. One of the brothers later told police Trump "was right" about deporting "all these illegals," according to a police report.
The comments marked a change in tone for Trump, who on Wednesday appeared far less troubled by it.
After being told about the attack at a press conference ahead of New Hampshire town hall on Wednesday evening, Trump said it was the first he'd heard of it.
"I think that would be a shame," he said, before adding: "I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. And they are very passionate."
Trump has inflamed Latinos by describing Mexican immigrants as "criminals" and "rapists" and saying he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico to crack down on illegal immigration. He recently said he would deport the millions of people already in the United States illegally, sort them into groups of "good ones" and "bad ones" and then allow those deemed good to re-enter the country.
Police and the Suffolk County district attorney's office said the two brothers came across the victim while heading home from a Boston Red Sox game and proceeded to urinate on him, punch him and beat him with a metal pole while he slept. Witnesses flagged down a state trooper at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday after they saw the attack and reported seeing the brothers walk away laughing, prosecutors said. The victim was treated for a broken nose, serious bruises and other injuries.
Scott Leader told troopers after his arrest: "Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported," according to a state police report.
He also suggested his behavior was acceptable because the victim was homeless and Hispanic, police said.
The brothers were arraigned Wednesday on a slew of charges, including assault and battery, according to prosecutors. They were being held without bail on charges including assault and indecent exposure. They pleaded not guilty.
Mexican officials on Thursday condemned the attack and said they would follow the investigation "very closely" to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.
"Mexico strongly condemns this incident and calls for recognition of the contribution made by the immigrant community to the economy, society, values and culture of the United States and for this to constitute the axis of the close ties between our societies," the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website.
Court records show Scott Leader served a year in prison for a hate crime against a Moroccan coffee shop worker after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, The Boston Globe reported.
Attorneys who appeared with the brothers for their arraignment couldn't be reached for comment Friday.