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No hate crime charge for man who assaulted Mexican father and son ‘shouting he hates Mexicans’

No hate crime charge for man who assaulted Mexican father and son ‘shouting he hates Mexicans’
A man in Utah, who assaulted two Mexican people in Salt Lake City with a metal pole in what appeared to be a drug-fueled outburst of hateful violence, cannot be charged with a hate crime due to a quirk in state law.

Alan Dale Covington, 50, faces two counts of aggravated assault, as well as three weapon and drug charges for the alleged attack, which happened outside of Lopez Tires, a car workshop on Tuesday last week. The victims are the owner, 51-year-old Jose Lopez, and his 18-year-old Luis Gustavo Lopez, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The father said he heard his son screaming and ran from the office to the garage to find Covington armed with a metal bar yelling racial slurs at the young man. He allegedly shouted “I hate Mexicans” and “I’m here to kill a Mexican” and then demanded to know if the two men were “part of the Mexican mafia.”

A brawl broke out, in which Lopez Sr. was hit on his forearm and had six stitches placed on it while Lopez Jr. was hit in the face and had to be taken to hospital for emergency surgery. Doctors had to place a titanium plate to fix his facial bones, according to the GoFundMe page set up by the family to cover medical bills.

Covington, was scared away from the scene by more family members. The police arrested him shortly after the altercation, finding some heroin in his possession.

Salt Lake City police Detective Greg Wilking said Friday that the man apparently was under influence of drugs during the attack and had “some mental health issues” that “clouded his judgment,” according to Tribune. He has a criminal record and spent some time in jail for assault, Wilking said. He added Covington was fearful of being targeted by a gang called “Mexican Mafia” while behind bars, a concern that “wasn’t really based in reality.”

Covington told the police he went to the shop because he knew the owners were Mexicans and presumed they must be part of the “Mexican Mafia”, who have been “after him since 2008,”according to KUTV. He will not be charged with a hate crime, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said. The reason is that the state’s statute on hate crimes says it can be applied as an aggravator only to lower offenses, not the more serious ones. The code has been last updated in 1992.

“Although we want to pat ourselves on the back and say we have a hate crime statute, it’s really not enforceable,” he said.

The Utah branch of the ACLU condemned the attack in a statement on Friday and called for reforming the state legislation on hate crimes.

Covington was arrested for domestic violence earlier this year after he hit his partner in the face and brandished a handgun, the KUTV report said.

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