Utah police have charged the suspect in an alleged anti-gay attack filmed by the victim.
The suspect was identified as 22-year-old Carlos Alazo, a Florida resident, according to a police report dated February 22 published in local news outlet KUTV.
Alazo was charged for making a threat with a dangerous weapon and on two counts of assault.
According to the police, Alazo contacted the authorities who were searching for him, saying he was the person involved in the alleged anti-gay attack.
The authorities noted that they obtained a copy of Alazo’s driver’s licence. The document includes a picture of the man that matches the description of the suspect in the video, which was uploaded on Twitter by one of the victims, identified as Salvador Trejo in the police report.
In the video, a man can be seen approaching Trejo, asking him: “Are you gay though?”
“Oh, I am,” Trejo responded, to which the suspect replied: “Oh then you’re gay?” before hitting the camera.
He then pushed one of Trejo’s friends and then pulled out a knife, which fell out of his hands, according to the statements Trejo and his friends gave the police.
According to their statements, Alazo made “homophobic comments” about Trejo, calling him a “faggot,” and also making “derogatory and vulgar comments” addressing his friends.
Despite the reports of homophobic behaviour, Alazo does not face a hate crime charge.
Alleged anti-gay attack can’t be prosecuted as hate crime under Utah law
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill believes it would be “nearly impossible for me to prove that intent” under the Utah’s code, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Utah does not currently protect specific groups.
“Utah’s current statute isn’t working. It’s broken. It’s unenforceable,” Troy Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah, told KUTV.
A new hate crime bill that would extend criminal penalties to those who commit crimes against people based on gender identity, race, religion, sex, national origin or sexual orientation, Senate Bill 103, was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on February 21.
“Utah’s current hate crime statute isn’t written to provide true protection for those who are commonly victims of these crimes.”
— Alleged anti-gay attack victim Salvador Trejo
LGBT+ campaigners hope the bill will soon be voted into law by the legislature.
“If there’s something good that can come from this assault,” Williams told the local news outlet, “it’s that we can mobilise our community, mobilise multiple communities to come together and pass a comprehensive, inclusive hate crime statue this legislative session.”
Trejo commented on the charges in a statement published on Twitter: “I’m not shocked that this isn’t being treated as a hate crime because Utah’s current hate crime statute isn’t written to provide true protection for those who are commonly victims of these crimes.”
“I am, however, devastated for all of the members of Utah’s marginalised communities who will see this news. I’m sure their hearts will break like mine has,” he added, calling for people to support the bill.