Salt Lake City police have made contact with a man who was caught on video assaulting another man after asking if he was gay.
The suspect’s name was not immediately released, but the Salt Lake City Police Department stated in a tweet that he is “cooperating fully.”
The incident happened in downtown Salt Lake City around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning and was captured on video by Sal Trejo, the alleged victim. Trejo told The Salt Lake Tribune that he began filming the man on his cell phone after the man began “getting increasingly aggressive verbally” and shouting “homophobic and misogynistic” slurs at Trejo and his group of friends.
The 8-second video clip shows the man, who is wearing a green T-shirt, ask Trejo: “Are you gay, though?”
“Oh, I am,” Trejo responds. The man then answers, “Oh, then you are gay,” before taking a swing at Trejo and knocking the phone out of his hand.
“I’ve been called a faggot before, but I’ve never been hit before,” Trejo told the Tribune.
Trejo claimed that after he stopped filming, the man shoved one of the women who was with Trejo’s group. The group then confronted the man, who pulled out a knife. Then, the man walked south on Main Street and “eventually got in his car and drove on the [Utah Transit Authority’s light rail] tracks” before police arrived on scene.
Trejo said he wasn’t hurt from being punched, “but the point here is he did hit me. He did get aggressive. And he did pull out a weapon.”
Police initially told Trejo that there was little chance the man could be found, but he posted the video on Twitter and asked people for their help in identifying the man. Both the Salt Lake City Police Department and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who is an out lesbian, retweeted his plea for help.
It remains unclear how police located the suspect or what role the video played in identifying him.
“He just messed with the wrong queers,” Trejo told the Tribune. “We knew that we would be able to find him because we have the resources and we have the support of the great community here in Salt Lake City.”
Police have confirmed that the incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
“I’m glad they’ve made contact with him,” he added. “A part of me is saddened that he also has to go through this, because it’s not easy. But I hope he learns a valuable lesson, and I hope that something good can come out of this.”
State Sen. Derek Kitchen (D-Salt Lake City), the only openly gay member of Utah’s Legislature, posted the video to his own Twitter account to argue that it’s time for the Legislature to pass legislation that would provide stiffer penalties for people convicted of hate crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Equality Utah tweeted that the group was “deeply alarmed” by the incident, adding: “No one should be attacked simply because of who they are.”
See the video clip of the altercation below:
My friends and I were assaulted by this homophobic man in downtown Salt Lake City last night. Anyone know him? The police are interested in having a chat with him. #SaltLakeCity @slcpd @slcmayor @EqualityUtah pic.twitter.com/1tPFSCADOp
— Salonge Knowles (@saltrejo) February 17, 2019
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