SALT LAKE CITY – Police say they don’t know yet whether a pair of attacks that seriously injured two gay men were hate crimes, but Utah’s gay community has called for a stop to the violence.
“Anytime there’s an allegation of something like that we consider all aspects of the case,” police Detective Cary Wichmann said. “But until a detective is able to determine it’s a hate crime, there’s no way to say.”
The two attacks occurred Aug. 26 near the downtown nightclub Club Sound, which holds gay-themed events each Friday. Dane Hall, 20, said he heard someone shout gay slurs at him just before he was struck from behind and knocked to the ground.
In the second attack, club owner Tom Taylor said he was leaving the nightclub when a bloodied man who lived nearby asked for help. Taylor said the man was sleeping on a couch in his boyfriend’s apartment when a group of men broke in, beat him and then chased him onto the street.
“They were close in time and location, but there’s not initial indication that (the attacks) were related,” Wichmann said.
Hall said he saw four men over him as he was repeatedly punched in the face. One attacker stomped on his head, he said. “My cheek bone was shattered.”
He lost six teeth and fractured his jaw in three places. Doctors found a chip of his jawbone jammed into his brain, said Hall.
“I never thought this would happen here,” Hall said. “My physical appearance will never be the same.”
The man that Taylor helped was not identified. Taylor said he was looking at security camera footage from the club to see if either attack or the alleged assailant were recorded.
“We can’t let these kinds of things not get taken care of,” Taylor said.
If police determine either attack was motivated by anti-gay sentiments, the police chief would become involved in the investigation because such crimes are taken very seriously, Wichmann said.
Meanwhile, the state’s gay community called for a halt to the violence.
Activist and Utah Pride Center board president Nikki Boyer said it’s hard to understand what motivates a person to beat someone because they are gay.
“We’re gaining acceptance,” Boyer said. “But there’s still so much hate and bigotry. I don’t have an answer. None of us do.”