US: Utah police investigating vicious homophobic attack
Police could pursue hate crime charges, after an attack on two gay men in Salt Lake City.
Rusty Andrade and Maxwell Christen were targeted by a pair of men on December 21, after they exchanged a hug outside Mr Andrade’s garage.
The gay men were verbally abused, before being punched and beaten, with one beaten unconscious.
Mr Christen told the Salt Lake Tribune: “I let go and then these two guys were just standing there.
“They started calling us faggots… one of them pushed Rusty and then they hit both of us. It was just quick.
“We got jumped. There was nothing on our part to instigate it.
“Once they found out we were gay, it was absolutely clear why they attacked us. It was a complete hate crime. If feel like if I could have done something, I would have.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said his office could pursue hate crime charges, adding: “We are taking this very seriously.
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“We would take that very seriously whether it was based on someone’s gender, someone’s religion, someone’s culture.”
Sgt Julie Jorgensen, Law Enforcement Co-chair of the Public Safety Pride Alliance told QSaltLake: “The suspects could be charged with state assault misdemeanours or federal hate crimes laws.
“The only hate crimes statutes available to Utah police are federal laws.
“If they make a hasty misdemeanour arrest, they could lose the chance to file the federal charges under double jeopardy. We have the highest confidence in the SLCPD investigators.
“They are members of the Public Safety Pride Alliance and committed to providing the best police service to the LGBTQ community.”
Troy Williams of Equality Utah said: “When you attack one member of the LGBT community, you really attack all of us. That’s the cruel irony of it … Biases still exist.
“We’ve had these amazing legal victories, but prejudice against us because of who we are is still pervasive in society. This is an ugly, brutal reminder of that.”
Salt Lake City is home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church).