Detroit — Tony Leno was taking a smoking break outside the Toledo, Ohio, church where he works when a tall, muscular white man pulled over in his Chevy Blazer, got out and asked him for directions.
As the 59-year-old custodian turned to point the way, the stranger — apparently without word or warning — stabbed him twice in the abdomen, got back into his vehicle and drove off into the night.
Authorities say they’re not certain, but they strongly suspect the assailant is a serial killer who has attacked 20 men in Michigan, Ohio and Virginia since May, killing five and wounding others, including Leno, who remains hospitalized in critical condition.
The first 16 attacks happened in and around the working-class city of Flint. The city is predominantly black, and even though all but two of the Michigan victims were black men, detectives there have been hesitant to say the attacks were motivated by racial hatred. Survivors said their assailant said little during the attacks — and nothing about race.
But authorities in Leesburg, Va., a predominantly white city where three of the most recent attacks occurred, believe the three victims there were chosen because they are black.
“I believe his motivation is pure hatred,” Leesburg Police Chief Joseph Price said at a Tuesday news conference in which he released a short video clip of the vehicle the suspect drove after attacking a 19-year-old man with a hammer.