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Salt Lake police investigating potential hate crime after attack on gay man caught on video

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Posted - Feb 18th, 2019 @ 11:44am



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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake police said Monday they have made contact with a man involved in a potential hate crime in which a man was attacked after he was asked if he was gay.

The man's name was not immediately released, but police stated in a tweet that he was "cooperating fully."

Many people have reacted with anger on social media after an 8-second video clip from the incident was posted Sunday night.

The incident happened about 1:30 a.m. Sunday near 341 S. Main.

The video, shot on a downtown Salt Lake sidewalk, is recorded by the alleged victim. It starts with a man asking him, "Are you gay, though?"

"Oh, I am," Sal Trejo replies.

"Oh, then you're gay," the man re-states.

Just moments after saying that, the man is seen on the video throwing a punch at Trejo. The cellphone shakes as others who witnessed the incident can be heard saying, "Are you (expletive) kidding me?"

Trejo posted a statement on Facebook saying he and his friends were leaving a downtown bar when "an intoxicated man" approached them making "homophobic and misogynistic comments."

The man's actions were concerning enough that Trejo took out his cellphone and started recording him. He said the man hit him and shoved a woman in his group.

Trejo said his group immediately called police. That's when the man "pulled out a knife and pointed it towards us while continuing" to make gay slurs, Trejo said.

He said the man then got into a car, possibly a 2007 BMW X5, and sped away, driving on the TRAX lines on Main Street.

"This man is dangerous and needs to be held accountable," Trejo stated.

Salt Lake police retweeted the video clip Sunday night with the message, "We are asking anyone with information on this case to call 801-799-3000."

Salt Lake Police Sgt. Brandon Shearer confirmed Monday that the case is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Shearer said detectives were receiving leads and following up on them.

The suspect contacted police Monday after apparently seeing the video and its reaction on social media.

It was not immediately known if there is a longer version of the video, if others also recorded the incident, or if any surveillance cameras on downtown businesses captured the incident.

As friends shared Trejo's post on social media, tips began to come in Sunday. But mostly, people reacted with anger on social media as the incident was shared.

"If this doesn't drive you with rage, I don't know what will," Moudi Sbeity posted on Facebook. "I'm shaking as we speak. My friend Sal got attacked last night on Main Street for being gay. … This is why we need to include the LGBTQ+ community in hate crime legislation."

"Sharing this so that people can see the reality of what LGBTQ people have to deal with," another man posted.

The alleged attacker is described as a white man in his early to mid 20s, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, last seen wearing a forest green T-shirt, blue jeans, camouflage print shoes, a silver watch and Louis Vuitton belt.

Utah lawmakers are considering SB103 during this year's legislative session, a bill sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, which aims to enhance the punishment for targeting victims because of race, religion, sexual orientation or other characteristics. But Senate President Stuart Adams said recently a majority of Senate Republicans aren't supporting the bill.

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