PAYSON, Utah (ABC4 News) Two men were arrested after an attack on a missionary in Utah County.
Payson police said a black Panamanian missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was attacked by a group of roughly six individuals in late January.
So far, Sebastian Francis West, 19, and Malachi Bay West, 20, both of Payson were arrested in connection with what police and the NAACP are calling a hate crime.
According to a probable cause statement, on January 28, officers responded to 285 North 100 East in Payson on the report of an assault. The victim was with his companion, and they were on their way to teach a family in the area.
The victim told police he and his companion were walking toward a home when they encountered “roughly six individuals.” The victim described the individuals wearing dark hoodies and some of them had red bandanas cover the lower part of their faces.
The probable cause statement indicates that the individuals started an altercation with the victim by “yelling and cussing,” repeatedly calling him a racial slur, and telling him to get out of their “hood.”
The victim reported one of the suspects took his cell phone out of his hand and threw it in the street, and when he went to pick it up, they followed him and continued to yell racial slurs.
Police believe the suspects were also mocking the victim’s religion because he was clearly identifiable as a missionary for his church by calling him a “church boy” and telling him to leave their neighborhood.
Documents state the suspects “acted in concert as they attacked the victim, punching him in the head and face, kicking him in the torso, and shoving him to the ground.”
The suspects did not at any point target the victim’s companion who is white.
In their report, police noted the suspects “intimidated” and “terrorized” the victim by surrounding him, calling him racial slurs and telling him to go back where he came from. These alleged actions qualify as a hate crime.
Because there were two or more suspects involved in the incident, the offenses are also being “gang” enhanced.
Sebastian and Malachi West were booked into the Utah County Jail Thursday. They face charges of assault and criminal mischief.
Jeanetta Williams, President of the NAACP Tri-State Conference of Idaho-Nevada-Utah released a statement expressing the organization’s “outrage” over the incident.
The NAACP is outraged over the hate crime that occurred in Payson, Utah between six individuals that targeted a Black Panamanian Missionary because of the color of his skin. We are alarmed about the physical assault and destruction of personal property. The NAACP is actively working with authorities to have all six individuals and not just one individual charged. In addition, we will work toward having all six individuals charged with a hate crime. So far, police have only arrested Sebastian West for his alleged role in the assault. He is facing an assault charge and a felony criminal mischief charge. Both are gang-enhanced and both are considered hate crimes.
We worked very hard to help pass the hate crimes bill in 2019.
Williams said Utah’s hate crime law allows a judge to increase penalties for a crime if a defendant is convicted of targeting someone based on ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation. A person must first be convicted of a crime before additional penalties would apply
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