PAYSON — Three more people, including two juveniles, have been arrested in connection with the assault of a black Latter-day Saint missionary, an event that police and prosecutors have called a hate crime.
On Thursday, Payson police announced that Nathan Thomas, 19, of Nephi, had been arrested along with a 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy. Names of the juveniles were not released. Thomas and the 17-year-old were arrested for investigation of assault and criminal mischief. The 16-year-old was arrested for investigation of aggravated assault, obstructing justice and criminal mischief, according to police.
Thomas was booked into the Utah County Jail on Wednesday night and the juveniles into the Slate Canyon Detention Center.
The arrests bring the total number of people arrested in connection with the Jan. 28 incident to five. Brothers Sebastian Francis West, 19, and Malachi Bay West, 20, of Payson, were previously arrested and have both been charged in 4th District Court with assault, a third-degree felony.
All charges and arrests are subject to gang and hate crime enhancements, according to authorities.
On Jan. 28, two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints went to a residence in Payson to teach when they encountered a group of six to seven men threatening one of the residents in the front yard, according to charging documents for the Wests.
“The suspects were in dark hoodies and bandanas covered the lower halves of their faces. One of the missionaries, who is Panamanian and dark-skinned, attempted to intervene and asked the suspects to leave,” the charges state.
The group took the black missionary’s phone when he attempted to call 911 and threw it, the charges state. As he was retrieving it, the group shifted their attention toward the missionary and continuously used a racial slur while taunting him, according to the charges.
The racial slur the men used multiple times was the N-word, according to police.
At least one member of the group brandished brass knuckles to intimidate the missionary before the group tackled the man, punched him in the head and kicked him, the charges state.
While struggling on the ground with the missionary, the group repeatedly used the racial slur while making statements such as, “This is our town,” “This is our turf,” “Go back to slavery” and “Go home you stupid (racial slur),” the charges state.
“The suspects did not at any point target the victim’s companion who is Caucasian,” according to a police affidavit filed in connection with Thomas’ booking.
The missionary was treated at the scene for his injuries by Payson fire crews but did not require transportation to a hospital.
On Thursday, police stated that their investigation continued after the arrests of the West brothers, leading them to additional arrests. Two of those arrested Wednesday admitted to being present at the incident, but claimed they acted in self-defense, according to police.
Thomas has been charged a number of times since turning 18, according to court records, mainly for misdemeanor counts of retail theft and alcohol-related charges. According to court records, Thomas was convicted of possession of alcohol by a minor and other traffic-related charges on Jan. 29, one day after the assault on the missionary. A warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to show up for sentencing on Feb. 12, according to court records.