Victim in alleged Bellevue transit attack dies; attacker was released from prison 32 hours earlier

A vicious beating at the Bellevue Transit Center sent a disabled man to the hospital with a fractured skull.

Sixty-three-year-old Eric Larson, who was sitting in his wheelchair when he was attacked, died from his injuries Tuesday.

Police tracked down the suspect and discovered he was just released from prison on July 8 on a sexual assault conviction.

Prosecutors say this beating happened just after midnight on July 10.

Worse, they say it was totally unprovoked as the victim sat in his wheelchair.

Those who frequent the Bellevue Transit Center say they didn’t know the victim’s name but they often saw Larson sitting in his wheelchair.

“He’s never bothered anybody,” said Jake Walden, of Bellevue. “He’s a nice guy. I mean, I haven’t talked to him personally. But he always minds his own business. I’ve seen him get on the bus.”

According to court documents, Larson was sitting in his wheelchair just after midnight on July 10. A man he did not know, 25-year-old Gabriel Vargas-Garcia, was pacing up and down nearby. A traffic camera then captured Vargas-Garcia knocking Larson to the ground, kicking him repeatedly and even stomping on his head. Even as Larson appeared lifeless, the beating continued for a full 90 seconds.

The attack left Larson bloodied and his skull fractured.

“Oh, my goodness,” gasped Kai Baylon, of Bellevue, as she looked at a photo of Larson. “Why? Do they know the reason?”

“It’s one of the most disturbing cases that we’ve seen this year, and we see a lot of disturbing cases every day,” said Casey McNerthney, a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

McNerthney was asked if the victim knew his assailant. “No,” he replied.

McNerthney also says the authorities don’t know what provoked the attack.

Vargas-Garcia had just served a 15-month prison sentence for sexual assault. He was released only 32 hours before the attack.

“This is a disturbing case where someone gets out of jail with the statewide sentencing guidelines that are set by state lawmakers,” said McNerthney on Friday. “He gets out and, you know, almost kills someone else.”

Still, it doesn’t surprise this transit rider.

“I see violence happening more and more, whether it’s here or Seattle,” said Seattle resident Tyler Devert. “Shootings, you know, shootings on the bus.”

The suspect is being held on $750,000 bail.

McNerthney says that since Vargas-Garcia has a previous conviction, he is likely to get a long prison sentence if he is convicted in this case.

According to Larson’s family, Larson appeared to be doing much better on Sunday when the doctors took him off the ventilator, but he would later die from his injuries on Tuesday afternoon.