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A Utah man who allegedly attacked three men and shouted that he wanted to “kill Mexicans” has been charged with three federal hate crimes.

Alan Dale Covington entered a tire store last November and struck one of the victims in the head with a metal pole in an “attempt to kill,” according to a statement from the Department of Justice. Covington allegedly struck another one of the victims with the pole and swung it at the third man.

Two of the victims were identified as Jose and Luis Lopez by the Salt Lake City Tribune. Veronica Lopez told the Tribune that her father and brother felt targeted by the attacker who also shouted "I hate Mexicans" and "I'm here to kill a Mexican" before asking if they were part of the "Mexican mafia." Her father, who immigrated to Utah from Mexico, has owned the tire business where they were attacked for four years.


Jose sustained a laceration to his forearm, received eight stitches and had his back severely bruised due to the assault. Luis, who was struck in the head, "had a three hour surgery to place a titanium plate from the right side of his face to his nose to be able to attach the bones and keep his eyeball in place," according to a GoFundMe set up for the family.

Covington is facing federal charges due to a legal loophole in Utah that prevented state prosecutors from charging him with a hate crime.

He originally faced four felony counts of aggravated assault, as well as several weapons and drug charges, according to Salt Lake County jail records. But only misdemeanor assaults can be enhanced as hate crimes in Utah, according to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Gill said the statute is so unworkable that no one has been convicted of a hate crime for the 20 years it has been in place.

"Is there a statute on the books that says hate crime? Yes is it applicable? No," said Gill. "It's a false hope."

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski released a statement Wednesday thanking the Justice Department for its work on the case and calling for an improvement to Utah’s legislation.

“This attack sowed fear into our community and was met with a swift and thorough investigation by the Salt Lake City Police Department who rightfully reached out to the FBI for assistance,” said Biskupski. “It is time Utah adopt comprehensive hate crime legislation to give law enforcement and investigators the tools they need to prosecute these types of crime.”

If convicted, Covington could face life in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the DOJ statement.

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