Social Issues

Man Won’t Face Hate Crime Charges Due to Legal Loophole

A man who attacked a Latino father and son after claiming they were part of the Mexican mafia has been charged with aggravated assault, but a Utah state law prevents him being charged with a hate crime.

Alan Dale Covington, 50, faces four felony counts of aggravated assault, as well as several weapons and drug charges, according to Salt Lake County jail records. He allegedly beat Jose Lopez, 51, and his son Luis, 18, with a 5-foot metal pole outside the family’s tire shop last week, the Salt Lake Tribune reported

Covington reportedly said, “I’m going to kill someone” before swinging the pole at the two men, according to police logs. Luis was struck in the head and later transported to a local hospital in serious condition. His father sustained a laceration to his forearm.

Veronica Lopez told the Tribune that her father, Jose, and brother, Luis, felt targeted by the attacker who also shouted “I hate Mexicans” and “I’m here to kill a Mexican” before asking if they were part of the “Mexican mafia.” Her father, who immigrated to Utah from Mexico, has owned a tire business for four years.

“I came out to ask if he needed anything and the first thing he said to me was, ‘You guys killed my f—— daughter,'” Luis Lopez said.

Covington later told police that the Mexican mafia has been “after him since 2008” and that he went to Lopez Tires to see if they knew people in the gang because “all of them know each other.”

Salt Lake City police detective Greg Wilking told the Tribune that it appears Covington was under the influence of drugs during the attack and may also have “some mental health issues” that “clouded his judgment.”

As for whether this was a hate crime or not, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill,  said that because there is no legal remedy in place “we will never know because we will never get to that analysis.

 Gill told NBC News that it would not be possible to charge Covington with a hate crime due to a Utah law that limits hate crimes to misdemeanor assaults.

“Is there a statute on the books that says hate crime? Yes is it applicable? No,” said Gill. “It’s a false hope.”

Jose Lopez received eight stitches in his arm and had his back severely bruised due to the assault while Luis “had a three hour surgery to place a titanium plate from the right side of his face to his nose to be able to attach the bones and keep his eyeball in place,” according to a GoFundMe set up for the family. The online fundraiser has received more than $35,000 for the cost of their medical expenses.

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