Deaf man attacked and stabbed by two men

A deaf man had no idea two men ran up behind him until he was on the ground trying to defend himself.

The 49 year-old threw his arms in front of his face and body trying to prevent himself from being stabbed.

"They attacked him from behind. They pushed him down, and they had some type of sharp instrument which they cut him, slashed him, and stabbed him with," Hillsborough County Detective Marc Purvis explained. "The most serious of the injuries was a stab wound straight up into the jaw area."

The motive is unclear. Right now it's robbery, but that could change.

Other than the audacity of attacking a deaf man, what shocked Det. Purvis was the fact this happened in the middle of the afternoon, a few hundred yards from the University Square Mall, in an area surrounded by apartment complexes.

Around 2 p.m. May 1, as the victim was walking along the banks of a retention pond, a popular path for many traveling to the mall when two guys jumped him.

With a special needs mental state, Det. Purvis said the victim did all he could to defend himself, but eventually passed out from the overwhelming experience.

According to the sheriff's office, the suspects didn't get away with much, just a disability identification card.

Because of that, Det. Purvis questions if this may have been a hate crime.

"As violent as it was and because of the separate races, them being black and him being white, also him having disabilities, it could very well be," Det. Purvis said.

The victim's mother, Marion Merrell, agrees. She was shocked to hear of what happened to her son.

"That wasn't just a robbery. That was attempted murder, because he could have been killed. They stabbed him right in the throat," she said. "How can you feel that you're safe in your community. You're not."

The sheriff's office has one angle of crime camera video that shows two men walking away from the scene around the time of the attack.

At this time, they are nothing more than persons of interest, but detectives would like to identify them and question them.