SANTAQUIN Utah (ABC 4 News) – A 16-year old could soon be facing hate crime related charges.
The alleged assault followed witness accounts that the teen was taunting the victim using racial slurs.
13-year old Jordan Henson is African American and his face was bruised after the attack last week.
“I got kneed in the face and he knocked me to the ground and left,” Henson told ABC 4 News. “He started calling me names like chocolate."
It happened after the pair get off the bus in Santaquin.
"He got off on the wrong stop and followed me home,” says Henson. “He started beating me up.”
The 16-year old’s mother who refused to be seen on camera says both were at fault.
“They both threw remarks,” the mother says. “And unfortunately my son was older and didn't know how old the kid was."
Jordan’s mother stands by her son’s version of events and says police need to charge the teen with a hate crime.
“It was a hate crime our community should standup and say we're not going to tolerate this,” says Brenda Henson.
Police will pursue assault and disorderly charges.
Utah has no hate crime law but prosecutors can enhance assault charges if race becomes a factor in the crime.
“I believe we will enhance the charges because of the hate crime factors,” Nicole Ferguson told ABC 4 News.
But she says the pending charges will be finalized Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Nebo School District is also investigating and took action but won't say what that was.
“We were very proactive,” says Everett Kelepolo the coordinator of student services at the district. “The school called us up immediately. They let us know what happened and we wanted to hop on it and let local authorities know about it to make sure they're on top of it too.”
Jordan's mother claims the district imposed a ten day suspension on the sixteen year old. The district says their policy will not allow them to comment about any discipline.
But once the teen returns will he be able to ride the same bus as 13-year old Henson. His mother and police worry about this.
“Of course, of course,” says Stan Eggen of the Santaquin police department. “The hard part anywhere is that violence on the bus or school we should have zero tolerance for it."
Kelepolo says the district can’t comment about that situation but want to assure parents they will take whatever steps are necessary.
“We take that very seriously,” says Kelepolo. “We take all the precautions we have to, to make sure all students feel safe."