Family says retired Naval officer was helping stranger who then randomly stabbed him

In Palo Alto, an 80-year-old grandfather, Allan Connel, is in critical condition fighting for his life after he was brutally stabbed. Connel’s family said he was trying to help a complete stranger when he was attacked.

Investigators said the attack was unprovoked, random and rare in Palo Alto. Police apprehended 18-year-old Andrew Cortez of East Palo Alto and are trying to determine a motive.

“He has the utmost character, he is extremely kind,” said Liam Connel, Allan’s son. “He is always willing to help anyone and everyone.”

Liam Connel said he wasn't surprised his father was being a Good Samaritan, helping a stranger.

“He saw a young man with a bicycle that had a flat tire,” said Liam Connel. “My father being the way he is, he was out walking the dog and said hey young man can I help you with that flat tire.”

Last Friday night, in the Palo Alto neighborhood of Lytton and Seneca, Allan Connel grabbed a bike pump from his home of 48 years. When he returned, unbeknownst to him, the young man was armed with a knife and began violently stabbing him.

“My understanding is that it was multiple stab wounds to the neck and face,” said Connel.

Neighbors who witnessed the assault told his wife and immediately called 911.

“It was a violent attack against an elderly male for no apparent reason,” said Acting Lt. Brian Philip of Palo Alto Police.

The suspect took off on his bike. Coincidentally, the suspect’s family members arrived looking for him. Authorities found him less than two miles away at his East Palo Alto home. 18-year-old Andrew Cortez is facing attempted murder and elder abuse charges.

“We don’t have a motive at this point,” said Philip. “There was no robbery attempt, no property was taken.”

Liam Connel is on assignment as a naval officer following in his father’s footsteps. His father is a Vietnam War veteran and retired airline pilot.

“I would just hope the greater community of Palo Alto and the Bay Area as well will keep him in their thoughts and prayers,” said Liam Connel.

The family is sick to their stomach worrying if Allan Connel will survive and if he does, what quality of life will he have. They are now putting their faith in the criminal justice system.

“Whatever it was in his life that led him to do this whether it was drugs or his upbringing,” said Liam Connel. “I think that's very sad as well.”

The police are awaiting the suspect's toxicology reports and are evaluating his mental health. They said Andrew Cortez is not known to Palo Alto Police. The Connel family wants to thank the neighbors and witnesses who quickly intervened to save their father.