A man accused of randomly attacking a 75-year-old man who was on a walk with his daughter and grandchildren in El Cajon was charged with attempted murder at his arraignment Wednesday.
Lester Kenji Riley, 39, pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder charge, which carried an elder abuse enhancement because of the age of the victim, the District Attorney’s Office said.
Riley was ordered held on $1 million bail.
NBC 7 also learned the suspect has a long and violent criminal history that his brother says includes an attack on his own mother. His brother also says Riley has a history of mental illness.
Court records show Riley has been convicted in at least six criminal cases dating back to 2004. Those cases include battery, DUI, and possession of a dangerous weapon – a knife. In 2008, he was sentenced to a year in prison for the attack on his mother.
His brother says Riley was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 17 years old, and believed his brother was homeless during the latest incident.
Prosecutors say the grandfather was walking with his adult daughter and two grandchildren near Madison Avenue and 2nd Street just before 8 p.m. on July 26 when Riley attacked him. Haddad was stabbed four times – once in the face, twice in the chest, and once in the forearm.
Minutes later, El Cajon police arrested Riley several blocks away while still in possession of the knife believed to be used in the attack. According to the El Cajon Police Department (EPD), Riley refused officer commands to drop the knife and was taken into custody with the use of less lethal bean bag rounds and a Taser.
After Riley’s arraignment, a deputy district attorney said the attack was random and unprovoked.
“The victim is a complete stranger to the defendant. He doesn't know the defendant, who was just minding his own business walking down the street, so it appears to be a completely unprovoked act,” said Deputy District Attorney Jessica Lees.
Riley was also charged with willful cruelty to an elder causing great bodily injury.
“What that charge does is it provides a sentencing enhancement if the victim is 70 years or older and if the defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury, in this case, the victim was 75-years old, obviously an elder and has suffered great bodily injury,” said Lees.
Riley is facing a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted.
Though his brother says he hasn’t seen Riley in at least five years, he wanted to offer an apology to the victim and his family.