Utah police investigating alleged attack on Middle Eastern man as possible hate crime

A 37-year-old man allegedly assaulted another man Wednesday outside of a grocery store because he thought that man was a terrorist, and police are investigating the attack as a hate crime.

Police learned of the attack just before 3:40 p.m. Initial callers reported a fight outside of a Smith’s at 845 E. 4500 South. Multiple witnesses reported seeing the alleged assailant on top of the victim, assaulting him, according to a probable cause statement.

The man told police, according to the statement, that he believed the victim was a terrorist. Police described the victim as Middle Eastern. Medics evaluated the man, who received minor injuries. He was treated and released.

When an officer asked the alleged assailant why he believed the victim was terrorist, the man said the victim gave off a “vibe," according to the statement.

Police determined the man had “no reasonable suspicion behind believing the victim was a terrorist," and because of that are asking the assault be classified as a hate crime.

When police searched the man’s bag, they found a substance that tested positive as methamphetamine. When police asked him if he’d used drugs recently, he said, “I won’t deny it.”

The man was arrested on suspicion of assault, possession of a controlled substance and unlawful detention, all misdemeanors.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group, sent a news release Thursday calling for prosecutors to file hate crime charges in the case.

The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify people accused of crimes who haven’t been charged.