The Justice Files: Guilty of a hate crime

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Luis Lopez waited and waited but finally found justice.

It was November 2018 when the 18-year old’s life took a dramatic turn.

He was attacked at his father’s tire shop in Salt Lake City by a man wielding a metal pipe. Alan Covington was looking for Mexicans and Lopez was one.

“He first asked me if I had killed his daughters and I was confused and then he started yelling if I was Mexican,” Lopez said.

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Three days earlier, prosecutors said Covington did the same thing, confronting others at nearby business but left.

But that wasn’t the case at Lopez tire shop in Salt Lake City. Lopez said his father and uncle joined him after they heard the commotion. They then escorted him off their property. Lopez said he picked up a metal pipe to defend himself because Covington appeared very angry and hostile.

They moved out onto the street and that’s when Lopez was hit twice in the head. He had no recollection of what happened. He suffered broken bones near his eye and was severely concussed.

Covington was charged with three counts of aggravated assault in state court last year. But those charges were dropped in favor of the federal indictment. Punishment is much more severe in the federal system for a hate crime.

After about five hours of deliberations, the jury didn’t buy the defense claims that Covington was retreating and tried to defend himself when he was surrounded by the Lopez family.

“Finally relieved, it felt good,” Lopez said after the verdict was read in court. “It was finally over. I guess almost over.”

Lopez explained Covington still needs to be sentenced. The deputy U.S. attorney said the jury’s verdict delivered a statement to the public.

“I think it’s a very important message (by the jury),” said deputy U.S. attorney Drew Yeates. “The message is that all members of our community need to be respected that they need to be protected.”

Lopez said he has recovered from his physical injuries but emotional distress still haunts him every day.

“I am very paranoid,” said Lopez. “Every time I go out I’m still worried this can happen again.”

Forgiveness sometimes happens at the end of a trial or at sentencing. But Lopez said he’s not ready to forgive.

“I am not ever going to forgive this,” he responded when asked. “No. I’m not.
What he did to my face, who’s going to get over that?”

Covington’s sentencing date will be set at a later time.

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