Utah man won’t face hate crime charge for attack on Latino father, son

Utah man won’t face hate crime charge for attack on Latino father, son

  05 Dec 2018

A man accused of beating a Latino father and son while making derogatory statements about Mexicans will not be charged with a hate crime due to limitations of state laws in Utah.

Alan Dale Covington, 50, faces four felony counts of aggravated assault, as well as several weapons and drug charges, according to Salt Lake County jail records. He allegedly beat Jose Lopez, 51, and his son Luis, 18, with a 5-foot metal pole outside the family’s tire shop last week, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Covington reportedly said, “I’m going to kill someone” before swinging the pole at the two men, according to police logs. Luis was struck in the head and later transported to a local hospital in serious condition. His father sustained a laceration to his forearm. 

Veronica Lopez told the Tribune that her father and brother felt targeted by the attacker who also shouted “I hate Mexicans” and “I’m here to kill a Mexican” before asking if they were part of the “Mexican mafia.” Her father, who immigrated to Utah from Mexico, has owned a tire business for four years.

But Covington has not been charged with a hate crime because only misdemeanor assaults can be enhanced as hate crimes in Utah, according to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. He said the statute is so unworkable that no one has been convicted of a hate crime for the 20 years it has been in place.

“Is there a statute on the books that says hate crime? Yes is it applicable? No,” said Gill. “It’s a false hope.”

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Jose Lopez received eight stitches in his arm and had his back severely bruised due to the assault while Luis “had a three hour surgery to place a titanium plate from the right side of his face to his nose to be able to attach the bones and keep his eyeball in place,” according to a GoFundMe set up for the family. The online fundraiser has received more than $35,000 for the cost of their medical expenses.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah released a statement and called the attack “very disturbing.”

“This is a terrible attack on a person, a family, and our sense of security from hate-filled acts in Salt Lake City,” the statement read. “The ACLU of Utah strongly condemns crimes where the victim is selected because of that person’s race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.”

Salt Lake City police detective Greg Wilking told the Tribune that it appears Covington was under the influence of drugs during the attack and may also have “some mental health issues” that “clouded his judgment.”

Covington has previously spent time behind bars where he was concerned about being attacked by a member of the Mexican mafia – a prison gang mostly based in California.

“He wasn’t really based in reality,” Wilking told the Tribune. “We don’t want to ignore a hate crime if it’s a hate crime, but we don’t want to make it a hate crime if there’s not that aspect of it.”

As for whether this was a hate crime or not, Gill, the district attorney, said that because there is no legal remedy in place “we will never know because we will never get to that analysis.”

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Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

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