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SALT LAKE CITY — A man accused of walking into a tire shop threatening to “kill someone” before attacking two men with a metal pipe Tuesday told authorities he specifically targeted the business because they were Mexican-owned and he wanted to retaliate against the "Mexican Mafia” who he claimed “had been after him,” according to court documents.
Alan Dale Covington, 50, was charged Friday in 3rd District Court with aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury, a second-degree felony; aggravated assault and possession of a dangerous weapon, each third-degree felonies; possession or use of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, each misdemeanor counts.
Now, the family of the two men attacked hope prosecutors will treat the incident as a hate crime. However, Veronica Lopez, the sister of one of the victims, said their family was informed Friday that prosecutors would not pursue hate crime charges since Covington was already facing a felony charge and, that under Utah criminal code, a hate crime is only pursued in misdemeanor cases.
“It makes my blood boil,” Veronica Lopez said. "There is no other way to describe it. This was a hate crime."
Prosecutors allege Covington, who is homeless, according to court documents, walked into Lopez Tires, 1647 S. Main St., about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and struck Luis and Jose Lopez with a metal pipe. He then fled the business, after telling one of the men, "I'll come back and kill the rest of you," but was quickly apprehended by police, court documents said.
Dortha Taylor, of West Valley City, said she heard the commotion before seeing two men chasing each other down the street. She said she then saw Luis Lopez on the ground.
"He was beaten up real bad. His eye was all messed up. He was gurgling blood. He was having a seizure — it was just really bad," she said, holding back tears. "I told (police) I thought he was dying."
Luis Lopez was transported to a hospital in critical condition before he was updated to serious condition, Salt Lake police detective Robert Ungricht said. Veronica Lopez told KSL TV her brother’s cheekbone was “completely shattered” and he underwent a three-hour surgery the day after the attack, where a titanium plate was inserted.
Jose Lopez, Luis' father, received eight stitches on his arm where he was hit as he protected his face and attempted to take the metal pipe from the man’s hands, Veronica Lopez said.
When police interviewed Covington, he claimed, “the Mexican mafia had been after him since 2008, and that he went to Lopez Tires to see if they knew anyone in the Mexican Mafia because 'all of them know each other,’” according to a police affidavit within the charging documents. He said he didn’t know any of the people who he attacked in the store.
Covington also told police he was aware the owners of the store were from Mexico, the affidavit stated.
Veronica Lopez said her brother and father were heating up breakfast when the man walked into the store with a metal pipe.
“My brother asked him, 'How can I help you?' The guy was like saying, 'Are you Mexican?' And my brother was like, 'What?'" she said.
She said the man then asked him if he was in the Mexican mafia and Luis Lopez asked the man to leave.
"(The man told him), 'I'm here to kill a Mexican — I'm here to kill you guys,'" she said.
The man then started to swing a metal pole at different people in the shop. The first few swings missed people, but eventually, he hit Luis Lopez in the face, she said.
Ungricht told KSL.com on Wednesday that Covington may have been suffering from a “mental health crisis” at the time of the attack. According to court documents, Covington had heroin in his possession, as well as a hatchet and drug paraphernalia. He also told police had used methamphetamine the day before the attack, the documents added.
Luis Lopez has a long road to recovery, his family said. A GoFundMe page* was set up last week to help cover funds for his medical needs. As of Monday evening, the page had already raised $57,000 of its $20,000 goal.
The family is also seeking justice. Covington has a long history with law enforcement in Utah and, in the last decade, was found guilty of assault twice and was charged with assault three separate times, as well as domestic violence, though those four cases were ultimately dismissed.
Court records also show that in the last three years, he was also found guilty of attempted drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and criminal trespass, among other things.
Records show he is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court on Wednesday.
Based on his previous criminal history, Veronica Lopez said she hopes the legal system will keep him off the streets as long as possible. She said that her family is afraid he could return to the shop and attack again one day.
"My brother was just lucky enough that (Covington) didn't kill him," she said.
Contributing: Andrew Adams, KSL TV
*KSL.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.