Two men were assaulted in the driveway of their own home across the street from Club Jam as their assailants used anti-gay epithets. Police have not yet filed charges against the men, but are looking at treating the assault as a hate crime.
Boyfriends Taylor Lamont and Maxwell Christen and their friend Rusty Andrade, were returning home from a Christmas party at about 2 a.m. Dec. 21. As they made their way from their car to their house, Maxwell and Rusty were approached by two men who began calling them faggots.
“They were calling us faggots,” Andrade said in an interview with 4News. “They said, ‘do you want a problem faggot?’ And I said, ‘get out of here.’ They told me we need to get out of there. I said, ‘I live here.'”
One of the men then allegedly punched Andrade in the head so hard that he went to the ground and passed out. The other allegedly jumped onto Maxwell and was beating him.
Lamont, who was in the garage getting a cake meant to celebrate Andrade’s birthday that night, heard the yelling and ran towards the attackers.
“Maxwell was on the ground with a guy on top of him and Rusty looked disoriented and then he went down on the ground,” Lamont said.
Lamont grabbed the man who was on top of Christen and put him in a choke hold to get him to let go. Christen was able to get up and go after the man on top of Andrade as he continued to “hit Rusty in the face.”
Frank, the head of security at Club Jam, heard the commotion from across the street and ran over to help. The two attackers fled, but one had dropped his wallet in the scuffle.
Police were called and arrived as the men returned to get their wallet. The men were taken into custody but not arrested that night, according to Salt Lake City Police Department spokesman Det. Greg Wilking.
“At this point we are screening charges. The detectives will look at the case to see what charges to file and a summons will be issued and they will have to come in and face a judge,” Wilkins said. “A lot could go into this, with possible hate crime charges because of what they said. We need to investigate further to determine their motive.”
The Public Safety Pride Alliance explains that when there are possible hate crime charges, the police must work meticulously because that would involve multiple jurisdictions.
“The suspects could be charged with state assault misdemeanors or federal hate crimes laws. The only hate crimes statutes available to Utah police are federal laws,” explains Sgt. Julie Jorgensen, Law Enforcement Co-chair of the Public Safety Pride Alliance. “If they make a hasty misdemeanor arrest, they could lose the chance to file the federal charges under double jeopardy. We have the highest confidence in the SLCPD investigators. They are members of the Public Safety Pride Alliance and committed to providing the best police service to the LGBTQ community. Contact us if you have any questions. We are your liaison officers.”
According to Andrade, in his discussion with Det. Jessica Kilgore Tuesday morning, the police intend to pursue hate crime charges.
The men are from Wyoming, however, and are reported to have been staying at the Grand America Hotel.
According to Lamont, the police at the scene told him the pair had been at Southern Exposure, two miles north of the incident, and had taken a cab to Jam. That driver had called police to report that the men had not paid for the taxi ride.
Wilkins said that the detectives will be reviewing any available security footage to see if the men ever went into the bar and to see how the alleged assault took place.
Lamont said that it was terrifying to run towards the attackers, but says that though both Christen and Andrade are pretty beaten up and shaken up, they are in good spirits.
Andrade told 4News that the attack shows the fight for equal rights is not yet over.
“The same night when this happened, people were celebrating the one year anniversary for people to get married. So it just shows that we’re making progress, but it’s not over for our community,” he said.