BELTON, TX — Marty Mendoza is both mom and dad to his 34-year-old son with autism, Marty Mendoza Jr.
Even though Marty Jr. is not verbal, his father said taking care of him is his purpose in life.
Together, the two have experienced how strong a community can be by filming their daily lives and posting it on various social media platforms.
“That's why I do this, because people can relate. They can understand and let them know that they're not alone in this frickin’ world,” Mendoza said. “We're all in it together.”
The two are exposed to the best of people from his backyard, to all the way around the world, with nearly 200,000 TikTok followers and 2.4 million likes to go with it.
While on the video app, many followers began inquiring about where to send gifts and letters to the family.
Since they didn't have a P.O. Box, Marty Sr. released the address to his Belton home for all to view.
“I’m just a regular dad, like anybody else, trying to spread the word of love and the word of autism,” he explained. “[I’m] trying to get more people aware of it.”
However, the online fame quickly turned dark as the duo began experiencing bullying and harassment.
“Some individuals behind a keyboard, pressing keyboards, don't like you, don't like your platform for some reason,” he said. “[They] don't know, don't even know your life for that matter.”
The online threats left the screen Friday night and led to a rude awakening for the family.
Mendoza said they fell victim to a swatting call. A swatting call is a prank that lures authorities to an individual's location.
He says the caller told the police there was a shooting at his home.
The Belton Police Department confirmed the officers’ arrival around 10:30p.m. Friday, and determined the call to be false.
“To be greeted with a bunch of guns to my face…God forbid if I would open the door with something in my hand,” Mendoza explained. “I wouldn't be here to this day.”
He commended the police for doing their job and taking the right precautions to ensure his and his son’s safety, but he also thanked God for his life, saying it could have ended with him dying.
Now, the single father calls on those who utilize social media platforms in a negative manner to be kinder to those creating content.
“Be who you are, be proud of who you are and don't let them ruin your life, because this world is so crazy nowadays,” he said smiling.
Mendoza said the incident scared him and his son, as they couldn’t fall asleep until the early hours of the morning. But it won’t stop him from posting videos and being his true, authentic self.