El Cajon Police.
El Cajon Police. Photo by Chris Stone

An ex-con was back behind bars Thursday on suspicion of attacking a female employee at an East County business with a large wrench after she had tried to help a woman he was accused of harassing.

The attack, in El Cajon, left the 40-year-old victim with extensive injuries. Cristian Fernando Graciano, 32, allegedly beat the woman with a roughly 2-foot-long metal tool.

He is accused of confronting her outside her workplace in the 800 block of Fletcher Parkway at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to police.

The events that led to the assault began a short time earlier, when Graciano started following a female pedestrian in the commercial area near Interstate 8 and state Route 67, Lt. Randy Soulard said.

“The woman entered a nearby business to get away from the man, as he was acting strangely and making her feel uncomfortable,” the lieutenant said. “A female employee of the business assisted the woman by watching the man and staying with her until a car arrived for her.”

As the women waited, Graciano entered the business with the wrench in his hand, prompting them to leave in alarm, according to Soulard.

“Once outside the business, (Graciano) immediately and without provocation or warning began to strike the female employee numerous times in the head and upper body before fleeing the scene on foot,” Soulard alleged. “Both women returned to the business and called police.”

Paramedics took the assault victim to a trauma center for treatment of serious, but non-life-threatening injuries, including a broken arm and lacerations to her head and hands.

Graciano was arrested later in the day and booked into San Diego Central Jail on suspicion of attempted murder.

“Graciano has an extensive, violent criminal history and is currently on supervised probation out of Riverside County,” Soulard said this afternoon. “It is unclear at this time why Graciano was in El Cajon or why he attacked the victim, who is unknown to him and had no previous contact with him.”

Graciano also is a suspect in a strong-arm robbery that occurred about six hours prior to the assault at a gas station in the 700 block of North Mollison Avenue in El Cajon, according to police.