Victim in hate crime trial says attack ruined his life

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah car repair shop owner has spoken publicly for the first time about he, his brother and his son being attacked by a man with a metal rod who prosecutors say targeted them because of the color of their skin.

Jose Lopez testified Thursday about the November 2018 attack at his shop in Salt Lake City in the hate-crime trial of Alan Dale Covington.

“This has destroyed my life,” Lopez testified through an interpreter.

Lopez said the man who attacked him, his brother Angel Lopez and his son Luis Lopez first screamed, “I hate Mexicans. I’m here to kill a Mexican,” The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

His son tried to defend them, but was brutally beaten, with the metal rod crushing his eye socket and tearing into his nose. The father was struck in the back and arm while trying to protect his son. Angel Lopez eventually scared the man away as police arrived, according to testimony.

Jose Lopez received stitches in his arm, and Luis had to have a titanium plate put into his face, according to testimony.

Jose Lopez said that he feared for his life and was afraid to return to his shop after the attack.

Prosecutors said Covington had gone to another shop two days earlier with the aim of killing a Mexican.

Covington has pleaded not guilty to three federal charges of committing a hate crime. His public defender, Emily Stirba, said Covington suffers from delusions and was after the Mexican mafia, which he believes killed his daughter.

“Mr. Covington doesn’t have a problem with Mexicans,” she said. “He was after the cartel. And no one likes the Mexican cartel. The United States doesn’t like the Mexican cartel.”

A car dealer named Jorge Crespo testified at the trial Thursday that a man with a shovel had shown up at his business two days before the attack and said, “I’m going to kill them. I’m going to kill all the Mexicans.”

Crespo said he tried to calm down the man, identified as Covington, for 30 minutes. The man left after Crespo explained he was from Venezuela, not Mexico, he said.

Crespo acknowledged under questioning by Covington’s attorney that Covingont’s conduct didn’t make sense and he was mumbling a lot.

The trial is expected to continue next week.

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