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Hammer-wielding woman arrested after going on racist tirade, couple says

Told to go back to their country

HOUSTON – A couple visiting Houston from New Orleans say they were confronted by a woman with a hammer because she apparently mistook them as being Mexican citizens.

Arturo Cordovez and his wife, Dr. Lia Franco, are natives of Ecuador who currently live in New Orleans where Lia is finishing her medical residency. In the last few months, Dr. Franco has been treating COVID-19 patients day after day. To decompress, the couple decided to spend the weekend in Houston over the Memorial Day holiday to unwind.

Sunday afternoon, they were looking for a restaurant near South Shepherd and Westheimer roads in southwest Houston, when they noticed a woman following in a car behind them.

“So we stopped a little bit on the side and she was still there," Dr. Franco said

“She stopped behind us,” Arturo Cordovez said. “After that she started showing a hammer through the mirror. She was shaking her arm ... and cursing at us I think. I was thinking what did I do?”

The couple called 911 and turned into a gas station where the woman continued to follow them.

Dr. Franco said that’s when the woman pulled beside them and started screaming.

“And we go what do you want?” Dr. Franco said. "And she said screamed ‘You Mexicans, get out of my F**ing country. Go back to your F**ing country.’”

The woman got out of her car, with a hammer and seemed to be threatening them with it. Before the situation escalated further, the police arrived and took her into custody.

Police identify her as 60-year-old Constance Lynn Bono.

She was arrested Sunday and remains in jail as of Tuesday. So far, investigators haven’t been able to say what sparked the incident.

For Dr. Franco and her husband, their first trip to Houston was surprising and scary.

“I think she needs help, she needs treatment, but that doesn’t justify the fact she needs to follow the laws of her country," Dr. Franco said. “If she broke the laws here, she needs to pay for what she did. But for me as a physician, I think the most important thing is she needs treatment, she needs help.”

Bono is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony with a punishment range of up to 20 years in prison. But if prosecutors believe racism was the motive, the charge could be enhanced to a first-degree felony, with a punishment range of up to life in prison.

The case is expected to be referred to a grand jury.