A man who allegedly attacked a Latino father and son outside their Salt Lake City tire shop in November, saying he was looking to “kill a Mexican,” was charged Wednesday with three federal hate crimes.
The grand jury indictment alleges Alan D. Covington, 50, attempted to kill 18-year-old Luis Gustavo Lopez — apparently because Covington believed Lopez was from Mexico — when he struck him in the head with a metal pole on Nov. 27. Covington also is charged with hitting Lopez’s father, 51-year-old Jose Lopez, and attempting to hit another person for the same reason, according to a news release for Utah’s U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Family members have said Covington showed up at Lopez Tires, on Main Street near 1600 South, about 9 a.m., yelling slurs and threatening Luis Lopez, who was tinkering on some projects in the garage.
Jose Lopez heard the commotion while warming up some soup in the microwave and went outside to intervene. Covington allegedly whacked Luis in the head with the metal pole, knocking him unconscious, and attacked Jose while he tried to protect his son. Covington ran away when another family member came outside to check on the commotion, and they called police.
The assault left the Luis Lopez with a shattered cheekbone and eye socket and collapsed his sinus. The teenager was admitted to the intensive care unit and had to have a titanium plate implanted in his face.
Covington had already been charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault, as well as weapons and drugs charges, in Utah’s 3rd District Court. It was unclear Wednesday whether those charges would be dismissed in favor of the federal prosecution.
County prosecutors couldn’t charge Covington with hate crime enhancements because Utah’s hate crime statutes is “really not enforceable,” Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said.
According to the state code, only misdemeanor assaults can be enhanced as hate crimes. A bill to strengthen the hate crimes law will be heard by the state Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee on Thursday. If SB103 passes through committee, it will move forward for full Senate confirmation.
After the indictment was announced, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski released a statement, saying the attack “sowed fear in our community” and applauded Salt Lake City police’s “swift and thorough” investigation, in addition to reaching out to the FBI for assistance.
She added, “It is time Utah adopt comprehensive hate crime legislation to give law enforcement and investigators the tools they need to prosecute these types of crime.”
If convicted of the federal hate crimes, Covington faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is in custody at Salt Lake County jail.
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