CRIME WATCH

Man Speaks Out After Being Assaulted In Possible Hate Crime

Feb 18, 2019, 6:28 PM | Updated: 8:56 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A gay man, who shot video of his own attack, wants justice after he was verbally and physically assaulted outside a Main Street bar in Salt Lake City Saturday night.

As the community rallies in support, some lawmakers are eager to pass a new hate crimes bill with sharper teeth.

“The frustration for me right now is: when do we say, ‘enough?’ When do we say enough hateful comments? Enough attacks on our identity, enough of our youth killing themselves because they can’t find a way in the world.”

The assault victim, Sal Trejo, told KSL in a phone interview he wasn’t going to go public with the video, but felt it was his responsibility to stand up for others in the LBGTQ community who have also been attacked, either physically or verbally.

Once he posted the video on his Twitter page Sunday, it spread quickly.

Trejo said that he started shooting the video after the man approached him and his friends while they were waiting for an Uber on the 300 N. block of Main Street.

In that 8-second video, the attacker asks, “are you gay?”

Trejo responds that he is, and is punched immediately.

After the man punched him, Trejo said, the attacker shoved a female friend, and pulled a knife on the group.

One lawmaker, who understands the sting of a targeted hate crime, said it’s time for legislators to step up with new protections for victims.

“I was heartbroken,” said Utah State Senator Derek Kitchen, after he watched the video.

The openly-gay lawmaker said the state needs to give teeth to its hate crimes law by enumerating the people protected. He said, SB 103 sponsored by Republican Senator Daniel Thatcher would give prosecutors new tools to effectively go after the perpetrator.

Kitchen said that he has the support of the six Democratic state senators, but he’s uncertain how much Republican support the bill will get.

“If you are targeted because of who you are, not what you’ve done, but who you are… that ought to be a crime,” he said. “The frustration for me right now is: when do we say ‘enough?’ When do we say enough hateful comments? Enough attacks on our identity, enough of our youth killing themselves because they can’t find a way in the world.”

Kitchen said he and our other lawmakers have a duty to step up and to stand by the minority groups that are targeted time and time again.

“There are things that happen all the time to the LGBTQ community, to the disabled community, to various people of different religions and backgrounds,“ the state senator said.

The restaurant Kitchen co-owns with his husband was also targeted just last week. The gay pride flag that hangs over the restaurant was vandalized – for the third time in several years.

“Now that this seems to be ramping up, I’m definitely on my toes more than ever before, and that doesn’t feel right,” said Kitchen.

The executive director of Equality Utah, Troy Williams, agreed this was a hate crime – an assault on the individual and the LGBTQ community.

They’ve been fighting for a hate crimes bill for four years.

“These things are escalating right now in our country, and we don’t have a statute, we don’t have a law to provide justice to these victims,” Williams said.

One of the things so disturbing about the video, he said, was that it was shot from the point of view of the victim, making the viewer feel as though he or she was being attacked.

“We all felt that,” said Williams. “A hate crime has two victims: one is the person being attacked and also the second is the community to which that person belongs. We all were Sal. We all felt that moment of fear, and we begin to wonder is this city safe for us.”

Police posted Monday afternoon stating investigators had made contact with the suspect and said he is cooperating. We expect more information from police Tuesday.

State Sen. Thatcher said he will have news on SB 103, the hate crimes legislation, on Tuesday.

Kitchen said the Salt Lake community is especially warm and supportive, so to be targeted is especially disappointing.

The FBI is investigating the attack on his restaurant, but he remains guarded. He said he doesn’t necessarily know if the vandalism against his flag will lead to something greater.

“We do have lingering feelings of fear,” he said. “Yet, at the same time, I know how supportive my community is. I just have to realize that there are bad actors out there that do wish to do us harm. So we have to be mindful of that.”

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Man Speaks Out After Being Assaulted In Possible Hate Crime