17-year-old Utah boy charged with assault for punching gay teen in Sandy

A 19-year-old friend has also been charged with retaliation. Both accused teens have hate crime enhancements added to their court charges.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Two gay teens, Jacob Metcalf and Christian Peacock, are shown in Sandy on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, days after Peacock was punched.

Editor’s note: An update to this story can be found here.

A 17-year-old boy has been charged with allegedly punching a gay teenager in Sandy last month after yelling slurs at him. And police say a 19-year-old friend of that suspect now also faces charges, after he went back and allegedly vandalized the victim’s home in retaliation for his friend’s arrest.

Both accused teens have hate crime enhancements added to their court charges.

The 17-year-old was charged in juvenile court with assault, a third-degree felony; and initiating a riot, a second-degree felony.

The 19-year-old was charged in 3rd District Court with retaliation against a witness, a third-degree felony; and criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor.

On July 30, two Sandy teenagers, Christian Peacock and Jacob Metcalf, were hugging outside Peacock’s Sandy home when a car drove by and the occupants yelled homophobic slurs at them, according to police. The car returned about 45 minutes later, when several occupants got out and yelled, “We don’t like f-----s” at the gay couple.

The 17-year-old allegedly taunted Peacock and Metcalf and eventually hit Peacock in the head, sending him to the hospital, where he was treated for a concussion and brain swelling. They both later talked about the experience to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Metcalf recounted: “There were five people there against just me and my boyfriend.”

The charging documents for the 17-year-old say he told police he approached the couple and “clearly targeted” them due to their sexual orientation.

He allegedly also told officers that he didn’t like that Peacock and Metcalf were displaying physical affection openly in their driveway. The 17-year-old refused to identify anyone who was in the car with him at the time of the attack, the charges state.

The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify minors who have been charged with crimes, unless they have been certified to stand trial in adult court.

After the attack, a community group had put up Pride flags to show support for the couple. New surveillance footage from the same neighborhood on Saturday — about two weeks after the attack — shows someone outside the victim’s home, according to police.

The person allegedly pulled out the flags, which were found “strewn about” the front yard and the street, police said, and at least one flagpole was broken.

A witness identified the 19-year-old as also one of the occupants of the car during the July 30 assault.

The 19-year-old allegedly “ripped down the pride flags” 12 hours after his 17-year-old friend was booked into juvenile detention on Friday in connection with the July 30 assault, charging documents state, noting that the suspected vandal’s “only clear purpose” was to “further intimidate and harass” the victim’s family.

Both the teenage victim and his sister have been “struggling with anxiety and fear since the assault on July 30, 2022,” charging documents note, “and with the continued intimidation they felt by the damage to their flags.”

The sister had originally tracked down the 17-year-old assault suspect through social media and persuaded him to come to her home and apologize to her brother. She notified police, and when the suspect arrived at the family’s home, he was arrested.

He currently is being held in juvenile detention.

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old has been booked into the Salt Lake County jail, where he is being held without bail after prosecutors argued that “there is clear and convincing evidence” that he “would constitute a substantial danger” to the victim and his family if he were to be released.

The Peacock family released a statement Tuesday through their attorneys.

It said: “There can be no place in Utah for hate crimes. We appreciate the swift and continuing efforts of the Sandy Police Department, Sim Gill, and the District Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute the hate crimes that targeted our family. We also thank our friends and neighbors in Sandy, including Mayor Monica Zoltanski, for standing by us and making clear that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Sandy.”