Utah Man Who Targeted Latino Victims in Attack Not Charged With Hate Crime

A Utah man who appeared to target Latino victims in an attack is not expected to be charged with a hate crime.

Attack on “Mexicans”

18 year old Luis Lopez and his 51 year old father Jose Lopez were working at their family tire shop when a man walked into their shop’s garage and attacked them with a large metal pole. 50 year old Alan Dale Covington entered the tire shop when according to another member of the Lopez family, Covington asked if the family was part of the “Mexican Mafia”. It was after this Covington came after the son and father swinging. Luis was struck in the face, causing severe injuries to his cheekbone, eye socket and sinus cavity and knocking him unconscious. His father Jose received injuries to his shoulder and arm while trying to protect his son.

Criminal charges

Covington was arrested and charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault which is defined by section 76-5-103 of the Utah Criminal Code as:

(i) “an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;
(ii) A threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force of violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
(iii) An act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and [that includes the use of a dangerous weapon]”.

Aggravated assault is a third degree felony unless the victim is seriously injured or knocked unconscious. In this case the charges are enhances to a second degree felony. If a police officer is targeted and is seriously injured, the charges are enhanced to a first degree felony.

Not qualifying as a hate crime

While the penalties for aggravated assault are enhanced for targeting a police officer, targeting a person of a certain race does not qualify for additional or enhanced hate crime penalties. Utah Code 76-3-203.3 states: “A person who commits any primary offense [misdemeanors only] with the intent to intimidate or terrorize another person or with reason to believe that his action would intimidate or terrorize that person is subject [as follows]

(i) A class C misdemeanor primary offense is a class B misdemeanor; and
(ii) A class B misdemeanor primary offense is a class A misdemeanor.”

While this section may begin to add further punishment to hate crimes, it only covers misdemeanor charges. For felony charges such as aggravated assault, there are no enhancements for hate crimes. Utah lawmakers are again pushing to update these laws to incorporate enhanced charges for all crimes.

Mental health and intent

Many believe Covington should face enhanced charges due to the fact that he appeared to target and attack the Latino family based solely on their race. Law enforcement officers noted however that Covington seemed to be suffering from mental illness or a psychiatric episode as he had a prior history of mental illness and also showed an unreasonable fear of Latinos while incarcerated. 76-3-203.3 that enhances punishments for hate crimes states: ”The act must be accompanied with the intent to cause . . . a person to reasonably fear to freely exercise or enjoy any right secured by the Constitution or laws of the state or by the Constitution or law of the United States.” While Covington will face the charges for the attack as soon as he is mentally ready to do so, asking prosecutors to further punish him for his intent while he was mentally unstable could be seen as unfair and unnecessary as he currently faces multiple felonies already. Anyone who may be facing criminal charges where mental illnesses played a role are encouraged to seek counsel from a reputable attorney.

Hatchet Wielding Utah Man Held at Gunpoint by Citizen

A hatchet wielding man was held at gunpoint by a citizen after a confrontation with another individual in Provo Utah.

Crosswalk road rage

Photo by: Kyle

55 year old Galen Williams was driving along a Provo, Utah road when he didn’t obey proper rules or etiquette regarding a crosswalk and pulled too far over the crossing lines. An individual who may have been in the crosswalk when Williams approached got into a verbal altercation and was then followed by Williams into a nearby parking lot. There Williams attempted to confront the individual but was stopped by the victim’s father. Williams struck the father in the face with his fist then went to the back of his vehicle and retrieved a hatchet. The father took a firearm from his own vehicle and pointed it at the hatchet wielding Williams until police could arrive.

Aggravated assault

Officers from the Orem Police Department arrived and arrested Williams for assault and aggravated assault.  The assault charges stem from the punch Williams conferred upon the victim’s father and resulted in a class A misdemeanor for the defendant. The Aggravated assault charge is due to the hatchet, even though it wasn’t actually used against another person. Utah Code 76-5-103 states “Aggravated assault is an actor’s conduct that is:

  • An attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;
  • A threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
  • An act, commit with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and . . . includes the use of a dangerous weapon”.

Although Williams may have had no plans to actually use the hatchet on one of the victims, he displayed the dangerous weapon during an altercation which could have been taken as a threat of violence with the hatchet. Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon that does not result in serious bodily injury is a third degree felony.

No charges for the armed citizen

Williams was not the only individual to display a weapon during the confrontation in the parking lot. The father of the victim who turned into a victim himself after being punched in the face pulled a gun on Williams during the incident.  Although the father’s choice of a firearm is also considered a dangerous weapon and had the potential to do more harm from a distance, he will not face any charges for pulling a gun on his assailant.  This is due to Utah law giving people the right to defend themselves.

Force in defense of person

Utah Code 76-2-402 states “A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the person or a third person against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force. . . . A person is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the person or a third person as a result of another person’s imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” That section goes on to warn that “A person is not justified in using force . . . if the person:

  • Initially provokes the use of force . . . as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant;
  • Is attempting to commit . . . or fleeing after . . . a felony. . . :
  • Was the aggressor or was engaged in combat by agreement. . . “

Since the father of the victim was not the one to start the fight and didn’t intentionally aggravate Williams to make him reach for the hatchet, his choice to pull a loaded firearm on Williams in his defense was justified.  Anyone who may be facing aggravated assault charges for displaying or using a weapon during an altercation is encouraged to speak with an attorney to see if their case may actually constitute force in defense of person.

Utah Man Impersonating an Officer Arrested For Making Death Threats

A Utah man impersonating an officer was arrested earlier this month after he made death threats against two men in Saratoga Springs.

Racial hatred

Photo by: HonestReporting

41 year old Jerred Martin Loftus of Eagle Mountain, Utah was arrested after he aggressively approached two men walking on a trail whom he accused of being in the United States illegally. Angry at the men for no apparent reason other than their ethnicity, Loftus told the men he was a correctional officer and threaten to shoot them and hide their bodies. The frightened men called police while Loftus fled the scene on foot, leaving his vehicle nearby with his firearm and ammunition inside. Loftus was later apprehended and charged with aggravated assault and impersonating an officer.

Impersonating an officer

Loftus told the men he was a correctional officer, and while it is unknown if he had been previously, at the time was not an authorized law enforcement official of any kind. Utah Code 76-8-512 defines impersonating an officer as when an individual:

(1) “Impersonates a public servant of a peace officer with intent to deceive another or with intent to induce another to submit to his pretended official authority or to rely upon his pretended official act;

(2) Falsely states he is a public servant or a peace officer with intent to deceive another or to induce another to submit to his pretended official authority or to rely upon his pretended act; or

(3) Displays or possesses without authority any badge, identification card, other form of identification, any restraint device, or the uniform of any state or local government entity, or a reasonable facsimile of any of these items, with the intent to deceive another or with the intent to induce another to submit to his pretended official authority or to rely upon his pretended official act.”

Impersonating an officer is a class B misdemeanor and punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Threatening to kill someone while impersonating an officer is punishable as a second degree felony, with up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.