CHICAGO

Indiana Knife-Slashing Attack A Hate Crime, Witnesses Say (VIDEO)

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In late August, Elree Jones of Chicago stopped at an Indiana convenience store to pick up some beer when -- out of nowhere -- a man approached him and slashed his face with a large knife.

Mark A. Neal, 50, was charged in the vicious and seemingly random attack, and investigators told Lafayette's Journal & Courier that Neal's motive was unknown. NBC Chicago, however, spoke with Jones and witnesses who say the attack was a clear hate crime.

"He just slashed my face. I still had my phone in my hand. He slashed my face and I dropped the phone," Jones told NBC. "After he slashed my face, I was in shock. He kept going, so I was blocking [him]... he slashed me in my arm."

Jones told NBC he ran from the store, but Neal followed him with "hatred in his eyes and venom spewing from his mouth."

"He mumbled racial slurs... like he'll kill me. 'I'll kill this n****r,'" Jones said.

A store clerk also classified the attack as a hate crime, but Jones said he was initially treated by police as if he did something to provoke Neal.

African American political blog the Hinterland Gazette criticized police for failing to categorize the attack as a hate crime.

"... If you walk up to someone, slash them across the face and call them a n n****r, um, then it's a hate crime," they wrote Thursday.

Neal is being held on $12,500 bond and has been charged with aggravated battery; battery by means of a deadly weapon; battery resulting in bodily injury and criminal recklessness by means of a deadly weapon and resulting in bodily injury, the Journal & Courier reports.

Read more about Jones' physical and emotional struggle since the attack here, or watch NBC's interview with him above.