Victim of racially-motivated rant speaks about experience

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) After last week’s racially-motivated rant at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, the victim spoke with KOLO 8 News Now to address the incident and what he hopes comes from the national attention.

Hector Torres lives in Orlando, but is working on a project in Northern Nevada. He flies home every weekend, but before he boards, Torres says he always calls his mom. Torres says in the middle of the conversation, he overheard a derogatory conversation and realized it was directed toward him.

“Pretty aggressive,” he said. “It got to the point where the volume escalated and my mom overheard.”

Torres says he always speaks to his mom in Spanish, and the man was clearly not happy about him using that language.

“He was very aggressive and escalating his aggression,” Torres said. “It became clear it was in my best interest to start video taping.”

The man, only identified as Mike in the video told Torres he needed to stop "talking in that *bleep* stupid Spanish around here when everybody else is *bleep* English-speaking American ".

The confrontation went on for nearly 8 minutes before Airport Police arrived.

I expected the cops to be there way earlier, but looking back it looks like everyone who was in that area was petrified, so no one was moving. That’s why the cops didn’t show up earlier. As soon as they knew this thing was going down they were on scene.

Airport officials say police were on scene within two minutes of being alerted to the situation. In the video, airport police address ‘Mike’, who then claims Torres was harassing him. Other witnesses of the incident collaborated Torres’ story.

“I’m perfectly fine with how I approach it, the way I dealt with him.” Torres said. “I did not antagonize him.”

In the video, ‘Mike’ who was in a wheelchair, left the area multiple times. Torres says he has received questions about why he continued filming when ‘Mike’ left the area.

“At that point, it was a matter of record. I had to protect myself,” he said. “I felt at the very instant I pressed pause or off on the video, he would have assaulted me. He was capable of it and he proved he was capable of it.”

In a copy of the police report obtained by KOLO 8 News Now, no charges were filed against ‘Mike’. Torres said he didn’t want to give the man more reason to be angry.

“I took note of a man who was just hurt,” Torres said. “He had paid some heavy prices and he was carrying a heavy chip. I didn’t want to add to it. I just wanted to show him in general Hispanics are fantastic people. You know we’ve got good and bad in each and everyone of us.”

He decided to post the video of the altercation to social media to shed light on the incident and hopefully encourage people to stand up when they see something like this happening.

“So when they see it in play, they see it in action, they can chip in and say something.” Torres told KOLO. “I’ve got a billion apologies from my fellow passengers that they didn’t do anything. Terror takes over, I understand that. Sometimes you just got to get through the terror and act. We can’t let these things happen. There’s just a feeling in the air right now that’s really unhealthy. That type of outburst just, we can't allow to be mainstream. We can't allow that to be the norm.”

According to the police report, ‘Mike’ was scheduled to fly on a United Airlines flight from Reno to LAX then onto Washington, D.C. A United Airlines representative told ‘Mike’ he would not be allowed to fly and give ‘Mike’ and his wife a refund for their tickets.

Torres says he doesn’t want anything from ‘Mike’ other than an apology.

"Long story short, I do feel bad for Mike,” he said. “I feel bad for the gentleman, and I hope that whether he's with his family or friends, wherever he is at, that he's getting some help."

Torres says he doesn’t blame the airport, and thanks police for how they handled the situation. He also says it has not changed how he talks to his mom.

“I will be speaking to my mother in Spanish moving forward,” he said. “That’s not going to change. It’s a lovely, lovely language, and the ironic part is I’m super bad at Spanish. That’s the super ironic part.”