After Target stabbing, 9-year-old boy will spend Thanksgiving in an L.A. hospital

There will be an empty chair at one Koreatown family’s Thanksgiving dinner Thursday night.

Normally, Brayden Medina’s extended family gathers at his aunt and uncle’s home in the neighborhood to celebrate the holiday. But this year, the 9-year-old will spend Thanksgiving in a hospital bed, recovering from a stab wound that has affected his ability to walk.

A little more than a week ago, the boy had been shopping with his mother at a Target store in downtown Los Angeles when — in an unprovoked attack — a man confronted Brayden and told him he was going to stab and kill him. The boy tried to flee but was stabbed in the back.

The assailant, who has not been identified, went on to stab a young woman in the chest, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. When the suspect, who police believe may have been homeless, attempted to stab a security officer, the officer fatally shot him.

Since that day, Brayden has been recovering in a Los Angeles hospital. Brayden’s parents have not discussed the attack and its effect on their family publicly, and they requested that the hospital where Brayden is being treated not be named because of privacy concerns.

After the attack, Brayden’s older brother Jessi said their mom tried to act “strong and brave,” so as “to not show me that she was sad and she was hurting.” His parents tried to comfort him. But he knew.

When he first talked to his little brother via phone, the 14-year-old said, he tried to distract Brayden from the terrifying attack.

“But out of nowhere he got sad. He said, ‘Jessi, they stabbed me in the back,’ and then he got really sad and he started crying,” Jessi recalled. “To be honest, I kind of lost it.”

The brothers cried together.

“This is like a life scar,” said Brayden’s cousin Lizzette Molina. “What he went through will always stick with him through his whole life.”

after target stabbing, 9-year-old boy will spend thanksgiving in an l.a. hospital
Lizzette Molina with her 9-year-old cousin Brayden. (Lizzette Molina)

The 24-year-old woman who was stabbed in the chest is still recovering in the hospital, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said. Last week, she was listed as critical but stable.

Because Brayden’s injuries were so serious, Molina said, only his parents have been able to visit.

“We just want to go see him,” 20-year-old Molina said, just days before Thanksgiving. “That’s all we want.”

On Nov. 15, Brayden and his mom had taken a bus from their home in Koreatown to the Target location at 7th and Figueroa streets in the FIGat7th shopping mall. Brayden had wanted to buy the Game of Life for the longest time, but his parents had been busy working, his mom as a hotel housekeeper and his dad in a kitchen prepping food.

Finally, on that crisp, clear Tuesday, their mother had time to take Brayden to the store to look for the game, Jessi said.

While Brayden and his mom shopped that evening, a man in his 40s entered the store unarmed and moved to the kitchenware department. That’s where he unpacked a large butcher knife, Moore said in an interview.

Brayden was walking by himself at the time, heading to meet his mom at the checkout stand so they could pay for their purchases. The board game was already in the family’s shopping cart.

That’s when the knife-wielding man confronted the 9-year-old.

The suspect repeatedly told Brayden he was going to stab and kill him, Moore said in a news conference after the attack. The boy tried to run to safety, but the man, “without any further provocation, suddenly attacked and stabbed this young child … causing him to fall to the ground,” Moore said.

The attack left a deep laceration on Brayden’s left shoulder. A 26-year-old woman tried to help and suffered minor injuries, police said.

The suspect moved away, then stabbed the 24-year-old “brutally in the chest,” Moore said. Good Samaritans came to her aid, he said, and pulled her into a nearby pharmacy “to ensure that the attack would not continue.”

The attacker then moved toward the front of the store, where he was confronted by an armed security officer, the chief said. The security officer opened fire at least once, hitting the knife-wielding man in the stomach.

He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

“I’m grateful for Target security, for their uniformed officer that was there,” Moore told The Times. “It was that uniformed, armed guard that was there that stepped in and stopped this deadly assault.”

As a result of the attack, Moore said, the LAPD sped up the initiation of its holiday deployment plan, increasing the number of uniformed officers in shopping centers and other places frequented during the season.

Moore said that police were continuing to look into the background of the attacker and said he had a “minimal arrest history.” Police found an address for him in the San Fernando area but believe he hadn’t lived there for a while.

The chief added that police have not been able to identify any prior involvement by the suspect with mental health professionals or treatment, “or what could have possibly explained this vicious attack.”

He said he is hopeful that Brayden and the 24-year-old will be able to leave the hospital “and get to a full recovery.”

“They’re still in the woods, in the sense that they’re still hospitalized,” Moore said.

Molina said they don’t know how long Brayden will be in the hospital. He’s started physical therapy, and doctors continued to run tests on him this week.

“They still haven’t confirmed to us what the long-term effects are and how he’s going to be in the future,” Molina said. “I don’t know how long it will take for my cousin to heal, but we will all be here for him.”

Brayden, the youngest of three boys, is “definitely the baby in our family,” Molina said. She described him as energetic, adventurous and caring.

The last weekend she came home from UC Riverside, she recalled, she’d been feeling down, and her little cousin focused on cheering her up. He told her to hit a balloon they had in the house to make her feel better. Then, to distract her, he suggested watching a movie.

When Molina heard about what happened to her cousin, she said she felt “heartbroken.”

“It definitely hurt me to hear my baby, my cousin who I love so much, had to experience this very horrible experience,” she said. “I came home as soon as I could.”

To try to help her family, Molina set up a GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $36,000. Molina expects it will help a lot, as both her aunt and uncle have taken time off work to be with Brayden.

Her uncle will probably return to work soon, because “they don’t have the luxury of taking vacation due to our circumstances,” Molina said.

She added that the family is thankful and overwhelmed by the amount of support it has received. She hadn’t expected to raise so much money in a short time, she said.

“[Brayden] knew the world was not a very good place already before he was hurt,” Molina said. “He already knows a lot of bad exists in the world, but I hope that with this GoFundMe page he may be able to see and realize that even though the world is bad, there’s also good people.”

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