Attack in tire shop shows Utah’s hate crime law is ‘worthless,’ prosecutor says

An attack against a Latino man and his son prompted some Utah officials to deem a state hate crime statute ineffective because it can be applied only to misdemeanors. “The statute that we have is such an untenable and unworkable statute that we have not had a successful prosecution of a hate crime for the last 20 … Continue reading “Attack in tire shop shows Utah’s hate crime law is ‘worthless,’ prosecutor says”

An attack against a Latino man and his son prompted some Utah officials to deem a state hate crime statute ineffective because it can be applied only to misdemeanors.

“The statute that we have is such an untenable and unworkable statute that we have not had a successful prosecution of a hate crime for the last 20 years at the state level,” Sim Gill, district attorney for Salt Lake County, told the New York Times. “It is worthless. It is not worth the paper it is written on.”

On Nov. 27, Alan Covington walked into Lopez Tires in Salt Lake City and shouted: “I’m here to kill a Mexican” before attacking Jose Lopez and his teenage son Luis with a 3-foot metal pole, authorities said. The younger Lopez was sent to a hospital in critical condition with lacerations and face fractures.

His father bled from his face and was “gurgling and coughing on his own blood.” He was released from a hospital Friday.

Covington, 50, an African-American, said he targeted the shop because he believed it was part of a conspiracy against him by the Mexican Mafia prison gang.

FEDERAl HATE CRIME CHARGES FILED IN KENTUCKY KROGER SHOOTING

Prosecutors have charged him with three felonies in connection with the attack, two counts of second-degree assault and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. He also faces two misdemeanor drug crimes, according to charging documents. He could face more than 26 years in prison.

He was being held on $100,000 bond.

Gill said the hate crime statute in Utah can be applied only to misdemeanors, meaning an assault like the one that allegedly occurred to Lopez can’t be categorized as a hate crime, he said.

“You would think a hate crime is the most egregious kind of conduct and you would want to be able to apply it that way,” he said.

Attempts have been made to amend the law, most recently in 2016, which was inspired by an attack on a group of gay men in Salt Lake City. That failed effort was led by Stephen H. Urquhart, a Republican state senator, according to the Times.

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Urquhart attributed the opposition against the amendment to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Gill said opponents of expanded hate crime laws fear a new law could "create special rights for people" or give the government the power "to police somebody's thoughts," the paper reported.

“But that’s not what is happening when we have evidence,” he said. Pointing to a case like the attack on the Lopez family, when a suspect is alleged to have explicitly stated a bias during an attack, he added, “I don’t have to speculate about what is going through your mind and what message you are sending.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Columbia University Holocaust scholar’s office vandalized with swastikas

A Jewish professor and Holocaust scholar at Columbia University in New York on Wednesday said two swastikas and an anti-Semitic slur were spray-painted on the walls outside her office.

Elizabeth Midlarsky said she was heading into her office at Columbia Teacher’s College around 1 p.m. when she found the hate symbols scrawled across the walls in red paint, the Columbia Daily Spectator reported. A derogatory word was also written on the wall.

“I was in shock,” Midlarsky told the paper. “I stopped for a moment, because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

“I was in shock. I stopped for a moment, because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

— Elizabeth Midlarsky, professor of psychology and education, Columbia Teacher’s College

“It’s very bad. I just hope it’s not someone within the TC community,” Katrina Webster, a master’s student, told the New York Daily News. “The goal of education is so that something like this doesn’t happen.”

Midlarsky was a victim of a similar incident in 2007, when a swastika was spray-painted on her office door and anti-Semitic flyers dropped in her mailbox, according to the Daily Spectator. The vandals had also written her name and crossed it out, the Daily News reported.

“The goal of education is so that something like this doesn’t happen.”

— Katrina Webster, master’s student

While police are continuing their investigation into who committed the vandalism, Teachers College president Thomas Bailey issued a statement.

“We unequivocally condemn any expression of hatred, which has no place in our society,” the statement said. “We are outraged and horrified by this act of aggression and use of this vile anti-Semitic symbol against a valued member of our community.”

Somali immigrant deliberately drove from Seattle for attack outside of Los Angeles synagogue, prosecutor says

A Somali immigrant accused of yelling anti-Semitic slurs and trying to run over two men near a synagogue in Los Angeles was charged Tuesday with a hate crime, as prosecutors said he deliberately drove from Seattle with the intent of committing the attack.

Mohamed Abdi Mohamed, 32, is charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with a hate crime enhancement, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Mohamed entered a not-guilty plea through his public defender and was ordered by a judge to remain jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail pending a hearing on Friday, CBSLA reported.

Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos said in court that authorities believe the 32-year-old rented a car in Seattle and drove to Los Angeles last week with the intent of committing a hate crime on Friday.

Mohamed is a U.S. citizen who arrived as a refugee from Somali years ago and has been living in the Seattle area since, according to the DA's Office.

Mohamed Abdi Mohamed can be seen standing outside his vehicle after crashing into another car on Friday. (FOX11)

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at a news conference Monday there was no evidence the 32-year-old acted with others as part of a plot, but that the department was working with the FBI and others in the Joint Terrorism Task force to investigate the incident further.

Police said Monday he was found carrying a knife in the car, and a law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times a copy of the Koran was also found in Mohamed’s vehicle.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the arrest was part of a growing problem, and that "hate in America is on the rise." (FOX11)

Two men leaving the Congregation Bais Yehuda around 9 p.m. reported they saw a vehicle being driven by a man, identified as Abdi, who yelled out anti-Semitic expletives "referencing their Jewish heritage" before running a red light, making a U-Turn and accelerating towards them "really, really fast."

"The reason we knew he was coming at us is because, when he did the U-turn, he was burning rubber, so it additionally caught our attention," one of the victims, who wished not to be identified, FOX11. "He came within inches or feet from us and we both scrambled in different directions. He backed up and tried hitting me while my friend ran into the synagogue."

SOMALI IMMIGRANT YELLED SLURS IN ATTEMPTED VEHICLE ATTACK OUTSIDE LOS ANGELES SYNAGOGUE, POLICE SAY

Surveillance video released by the Los Angeles Police Department shows the car, allegedly being driven by Abdi, making the sharp U-turn before speeding at the two men. In another video, the car can be seen crashing into another vehicle two blocks away. The 32-year-old was taken into custody shortly after the crash.

Mohamed Abdi Mohamed was arrested Friday after the attack. (Los Angeles Police Department)

The 32-year-old had been suffering from schizophrenia since at least 2015, according to medical records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. Family members told the paper in a statement he had no hatred towards the Jewish community, and that he did not receive "intensive medical care he needed.”

“Mohamed’s mental illness renders him unpredictable and unstable, however, he has never expressed particular hatred toward Jews, or any other group of people or minority,” the family told the newspaper in its statement.

The 32-year-old faces a possible maximum sentence of eight years and eight months in state prison if convicted as charged. He is scheduled to appear in court again for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 10.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @travfed