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SLC Police investigating possible hate crime after man uses homophobic hate speech during assault

Posted at 9:55 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 00:48:45-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Police are investigating an assault that occurred in downtown Salt Lake City during Pride Weekend, and it could potentially be a hate crime.

According to police, the assault happened while a group of three people were walking in the area of 150 W. 600 South around 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. They had been at a Pride event, SLCPD wrote in a press release.

The group saw a man and woman fighting, and one member of the group tried to intervene. The man then punched that person while "yelling hate speech," police said.

The victim's two friends then tried to intervene, but the man punched them as well while using "homophobic hate speech toward all three victims."

Two of the victims suffered minor injuries; the third suffered a head injury but declined medical treatment.

"At this point, the assault does not appear to be targeted, nor does it appear to be a stranger-on-stranger attack. The specific motive to the assault remains unknown. However, because hate speech was used during the assault, this case is being investigated as a potential hate crime," the press release read.

Police had not found the suspect as of Monday but said they had some information about his identity.

Anyone with information, photos or videos of the incident is asked to call the department at 801-799-3000 and reference case number 22-105521.

FOX 13 News spoke with the victims of this assault who were not ready to go on camera but sent this statement:

"Cruz Greene (they/them), 22, and I, Erick Ledesma (he/him) 24, were assaulted at around 2:00 AM by [suspect's name redacted] after celebrating Pride weekend with some friends at local gay nightclub, Milk +. The assault occurred at the Garden Lofts apartment complex, 154 W 600 S, in front of several witnesses. Cruz and another friend who was involved in the incident (who would like to remain anonymous but is also part of the LGBTQAI+ community) were walking to the apartments to meet up with me and another friend who were already inside her apartment unit waiting for everyone else to arrive. Once Cruz and our other friend involved arrived to the complex they walked past a large group of about 7-10 people, which the assaulter was a part of. They ran into another mutual friend of ours who lives in the complex who was barely pulling into the building. They stopped to talk to them as they sat in their car. Suddenly, the assaulter came up to both of them and hit the other victim in the head then slammed them against the car and hit them repeatedly until they fell to the ground. This was when I had called Cruz to find out where they were. Cruz informed me that our friend had been hit and the assaulter was still instigating violence with many people. As soon as we got off the phone, Cruz started recording video of the altercation. I came down stairs to try and find out what was going on. As soon as I got downstairs, I saw the assaulter being held back by several people who he kept pushing back to try and get to our friend. I began to yell at the assaulter to stop and tried to intervene. That was when he charged me and knocked me down for the first time. As I struggled to get backup, Cruz was still recording but saw the assaulter going for me and started yelling for him to stop. After hitting me, he turned to Cruz, since they were screaming at him to stop, and hit them in the nose and left temple, causing them a fractured nose and a concussion. They were knocked to the ground and their phone was shattered. While Cruz was on the ground bleeding, I was able to get up and tried to go to them to help. He charged me again and knocked me fully unconscious, causing a concussion on me as well. Our friend who was still in their car, was on the phone with police, this was when the assaulter saw and started running away. 5-10 minutes after him running, police and EMTs showed up and started providing medical attention and asking questions. We were in the ER till 8am and have dr. notes detailing our injuries. The police have not contacted us, and we have not been able to reach them to give a statement besides the one given on the scene."

They added that a lot of the expletives the suspect shouted at them were “Homophobic in nature.”

Both were shocked, saying what happened was unprovoked and the attack came out of nowhere.

Another witness sent FOX 13 a statement as well:

"I pulled into my apartment complex at around 2:25 ish am assuming that I would be seeing my friends, I saw a group of people outside and it looked like it was an altercation, I saw my friend Cruz and rolled down my window to ask where my friend Erick was, in that time frame a boy was slammed into the side of my jeep (drivers side) and was being physically attacked by this man. I called 911 and told them they had to come immediately in that time frame I saw that the guy was attacking someone else and everyone trying to pull him off, but he was so amped up he was pushing even females. I see my friend Cruz and the attacker looks at him and punches him right in the face , Cruz falls and the attacker begins to try and punch him more. My friend Erick begins to walk towards him and he punched Erick right in the mouth, Erick hit his head against the fence he got back up and the guy pushed him back down and Erick hit his head against the curb, knocking him out for a couple seconds. The attacker keeps yelling absurd stuff calling them [homophobic expletive] and then he ran away. Cops came around 2 minutes after , I had to drive both of my friends to ER and they left with a broken nose , busted lips , bruised ribs , black eye, and concussions."

Kevin Randall with the Utah Pride Center said this weekend was a great success for them with a great Utah Pride Festival, but said the attack was disappointing.

“ It's unfortunate that this man not only felt like he was allowed to attack a woman, but also members of the LGBTQ+ community and voice that," Randall said. "It's just disappointing overall. I think no matter what the situation is, it's traumatic for the people involved.”

SLCPD said it has a 24/7 hotline for victims of hate crimes or any other crimes. Victim advocates can be reached at 801-580-7969.