Watts teen attacked while eating a burger; teenage suspect is arrested

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Jason Rios just wanted a burger.

The 15-year-old from Watts sat down with a friend for dinner at an outdoor patio at Freedom Plaza off Century Boulevard on Tuesday when, without warning, three boys attacked Jason and his friend from behind, beating them as they scrambled for cover.

No one intervened, according to Humberto Rios, Jason’s older brother. There were no security guards present as Jason fell to the ground and shielded his head with his arms while his attackers kicked and punched. The assailants seemed to single out the boys and did not try to rob them, according to family.

“We don’t think he said anything to these other people before they attacked him,” Humberto Rios said.

The straight-A student from Simon Tech High School underwent an eight-hour emergency surgery after the attack to stop bleeding in his brain. His friend was also hospitalized. On Wednesday, police arrested a juvenile on suspicion of attempted murder; two other suspects remain at large, Los Angeles police said in a news release.

“There’s no explanation for why this happened,” Jason’s older sister Nayeli Rios said. “Jason never goes out. We always make sure to drive him to and from school. He just stays at home and plays video games like Fortnite.”

Jason turned 15 on May 10, a few days before the attack. He asked his mother to let him go on a typical teenage outing — burgers with a friend. His family relented and told him to make sure he had his phone on, Nayeli Rios said.

On Monday, Jason and his friend ate burgers on the outdoor patio at the Habit Burger Grill. Like a typical teenager, Jason came home and played video games without elaborating about his dinner. He relayed to his family that it was uneventful.

On Tuesday, Jason went back with his friend to the same outdoor patio. Shortly before 7 p.m. they were attacked. The attackers repeatedly punched and kicked Jason in the head. He fell, but was able to get back up and run away, Humberto Rios said.

Humberto Rios then described what happened next.

The teen stayed within the Freedom Plaza and ran to a nearby Panda Express where he called his mother in a panic. She could tell her son had been attacked, but she couldn’t make out much else because his speech was slurred.

“She couldn’t understand him. Only half of his words were coming out of his mouth,” Humberto Rios said.

She drove to the Panda Express, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary: no ambulances, no police vehicles.

She walked around the restaurant and found her son lying on a patio bench. He looked up but was unable to say anything.

The property management company at Freedom Plaza did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

The family took Jason to MLK Community Hospital in Willowbrook. But medical staff didn’t believe Jason had been attacked or didn’t seem to notice that the boy was vomiting blood, said his sister, Nayeli Rios.

“A doctor asked Jason if he was drunk,” she said. “They didn’t seem to believe he was attacked and struck in the head.”

Jason was unable to keep his eyes open and was trembling while waiting for medical attention, according to his family.

MLK Community Hospital did not immediately respond to requests to comment about the Rios family‘s experience, but what is clear is that Jason was eventually able to get a CT scan of his brain. Doctors found bleeding in his brain, Nayeli Rios said. He was transferred to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance and taken in for emergency surgery. Jason was in surgery for nearly eight hours, Humberto Rios said, and came out around 6 a.m. on Wednesday with a tube down his throat.

Nayeli Rios saw that her brother’s shaggy hair had been shaved for the surgery and he was only able to see out of one eye due to swelling. Doctors removed the tube from his mouth Thursday morning and lowered his sedation, Humberto Rios said. Half awake, Jason’s words came out garbled or too low for anyone to hear. All his family could do was hold his hand.

On Friday he underwent a second surgery, Nayeli Rios said. Jason’s family have set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for his medical expenses.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.