On Sunday night, a Republican Party canvasser was attacked by two men on the street where he was knocking on doors and passing out fliers in East Hialeah.
The beating was elevated into a news story when Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted Monday morning that the canvasser was attacked “by 4 animals who told him Republicans weren’t allowed in their neighborhood.”
The initial police report, which was released to reporters after Rubio’s tweet, did not mention anything about the attack being politically motivated. And a police spokesman told Local 10 journalists that politics did not seem to be a factor. That changed when a subsequent report, based on a subsequent interview with the victim, comported with what Rubio had said in his tweet.
READ MORE: Proud Boys, allies rally in support of GOP canvasser in front of Hialeah voting site
How did a brutal instance of street crime — with no mention of politics in the original police report — become a case of political violence decried by one of Florida’s most powerful politicians?
The Miami Herald has put together a timeline:
Sunday, Oct. 23, approximately 6:20 p.m: The beating
Christopher Monzon, a canvasser for the Republican Party of Florida, was door-knocking on East 60th Street in Hialeah when he encountered Javier Lopez, 25, and a second man. According to multiple police reports released in the following days, the two brutally beat up Monzon, leaving him with serious injuries, including a broken eye socket and nose.
READ MORE: GOP canvasser beaten in Hialeah speaks out for first time: ‘I’m going to clear my name’
Hialeah Police Department officers interviewed Monzon at the scene. The initial police report quoted one attacker telling the Monzon: “You can’t pass by here. This is my neighborhood.” It escalated from there. The street is in a solidly Republican precinct (45.7% GOP, 20.2% Dem, 32% NPA) in a solidly Republican city. Nowhere in the report are politics mentioned.
Monzon was transported to the hospital after initially refusing medical treatment, police said.
Lopez was arrested but the second man had left by the time officers arrived, according to police.
Monday, Oct. 24, approximately 9:50 a.m. : Radio Mambí
Reynaldo Cedeno, Monzon’s father, calls into Radio Mambí, which features a Spanish-language talk format, to report what happened to his son the evening before.
The interview is broadcast live and posted to the station’s Twitter account.
The father says “four animals” attacked his son, a field organizer for the Republican Party, around 6 p.m. Sunday, beating him so badly he was sent to the hospital.
“He’s going to have two operations,” Cedeno says. Cedeno notes that his son was wearing a Rubio shirt and a Gov. Ron DeSantis hat, but does not say that the attackers told him he was unwelcome in the neighborhood because he was Republican.
After speaking to Cedeno for approximately four minutes, Rosa Peña, the Radio Mambí host, concludes it was a politically motivated attack from the left, “paid for” by vested interests to “terrorize the population.”
Monday, Oct. 24, 11:18 a.m. Rubio tweets about ‘four animals’
Rubio’s staff says he spoke to Cedeno after the radio segment. Afterward, Rubio tweets to his 4.4 million followers, amplifying the allegation that was made on the air by the radio host but was not in the police report.
“Last night one of our canvassers wearing my T-shirt and a Desantis hat was brutally attacked by 4 animals who told him Republicans weren’t allowed in their neighborhood in #Hialeah,” the tweet reads in part.
Photos posted with the tweet show Monzon wearing a Rubio campaign shirt, bloodied and beaten, on a gurney.
Monday, Oct. 24, approximately 11:30 a.m. : Rubio at rally
Speaking to a crowd at an early voting rally at the the John F. Kennedy Library in Hialeah, Rubio mentions the attack, but adds that the full details are not yet known. He says he — unlike others — does not rush to conclusions.
“Sadly, we get the news and we’re still waiting for details. It’s always important to have details. We’re not like these other people that always jump to conclusions, but we know this: Someone wearing a Rubio T-Shirt and a DeSantis hat was walking in a neighborhood not far from here yesterday when four individuals assaulted him, broke his nose, broke his jaw,” and gave him internal bleeding, Rubio said.
Monday, Oct. 24, 3:05 p.m. : First police report released
Hialeah police release their first incident report on the beating and Lopez’s arrest, the one that includes no mention of politics and says there are two attackers, not four.
In the report, police state that Monzon said he was handing out fliers in the neighborhood when he came across Lopez, who was blocking the street. Monzon said Lopez told him he could not be in his neighborhood, according to report.
The two argued and Monzon crossed the street, but Lopez came after him “to grab him and proceeded to slam him against the floor,” according to the report.
According to that report, the second attacker, not named, kicked Monzon’s face and Lopez then punched Monzon multiple times “causing him to have severe swelling on the right side of his face and his right eye being completely shut from the damages.”
After releasing the report, a spokesman for Hialeah Police tells Local 10 that there is “no indication” of a political motive. He says the investigation is ongoing.
Monday, Oct. 24, 3:32 p.m. First report on Monzon and his white nationalist past
The Miami New Times publishes a story describing Monzon’s white nationalist ties.
A prior Miami Herald story had described how he is known as the “Cuban Confederate” and has a history of making racist and anti-Semetic comments. He participated in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that degenerated into violence. A Miami Herald video showed him lunging and trying to use the pole of a Confederate flag as a weapon during a protest against stripping the names of Confederate generals from Hollywood, Florida, street signs.
He is also a former member of the Miami-Dade Republican executive committee. Monzon was a former candidate for the Hialeah City Commission who, during last year’s unsuccessful campaign, disavowed his white nationalist past, including his membership in the Florida League of the South, which advocates for a “free and independent Southern republic.”
Records show that Monzon who is vice president of the Miami Springs Republican Club, has received more than $10,000 from the Republican Party for get-out-the-vote efforts since June.
Monday afternoon — time unclear
Hialeah police detectives re-interview Monzon. It is hours after the radio segment and Rubio’s initial tweet.
For the first time, according to police, Monzon tells them that politics played a role in his beating.
In the new sworn statement, Monzon says the second attacker declared “he could not pass through [the neighborhood] because he was a Republican.”
The Miami Herald interviews Lopez’s mother, who says her son has never voted and has no interest in politics.
Tuesday, Oct. 25, 7:31 p.m. : Rubio slams media
Rubio tweets about the Herald interview with Lopez’s mother, a registered Republican, saying it is an example of blaming the victim for a crime.
“When a Republican volunteer is savagely beaten the traditional media treats the victim as the criminal and the criminal as a nice young man who likes fishing & just made a mistake,” Rubio writes. In comments, Twitter users ask whether Rubio is comfortable with a white nationalist track record knocking on constituents’ doors on his campaign’s behalf. He does not respond.
Tuesday, 11:03 p.m.: Casanova’s arrest report is released
Police locate and arrest the second suspect, 27-year-old Jonathan Casanova. The Hialeah Police Department releases the arrest affidavit. Both alleged attackers have lengthy records, including arrests on charges of aggravated assault, burglary and grand theft.
The affidavit aligns with Sen. Rubio’s earlier tweet. Monzon swears he was warned he could “not pass through because he was a Republican.” He says Casanova also sicced his two German shepherds on him.
Wednesday, Oct. 26, 9:22 a.m.: Rubio tweets again
Rubio tweets about Casanova’s arrest, reiterating that the attack was politically motivated and criticizing news coverage.
“Now a second arrest, a police report & surveillance video shows how biased & irresponsible the narrative they were pushing was,” he writes.
Thursday Oct. 27: Event organized for Monzon
A flier began circulating on the instant-messaging platform Telegram, calling for a “rally and door-knocking for Chris” on Saturday Oct. 29 in Hialeah.
The message sent with the initial flier, which features a picture of a bloody Monzon, says the speakers will include Monzon’s family and “possibly” Hialeah mayor Esteban Bovo.
One of the organizers, according to Telegram messages viewed by the Herald, is Chris Barcenas, a local member of the Proud Boys and a member of the Miami-Dade Republican Party executive committee.
Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo’s office tells el Nuevo Herald he will not attend, as it relates to an active investigation.
Friday morning: Rubio press conference
At a press conference Friday after voting early at West Miami City Hall, Rubio responds to a question about Monzon’s past ties to white supremacy.
“It’s shameful what’s happened to the media,” he says. “It’s okay to shame and attack a victim when the victim is conservative. It’s grotesque.”
“I don’t know what this young man did in his past,” the senator adds, “but he’s rejected it. … We should be focused on these two thugs who attacked him.”
He does not attend the Saturday rally.
Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald staff writers Sarah Blaskey, Véronica Egui Brito, Michelle Marchante, David Ovalle, Bianca Padró Ocasio and Charles Rabin contributed.
This story was originally published October 29, 2022 12:45 PM.