Couple arrested for alleged hate crime against gay man in St. George
(KUTV) Authorities are investigating a suspected hate crime in southern Utah.
St. George police said the victim is a homosexual man who was the target of sexual slurs and an assault just because of his sexual orientation.
The victim was not named, but Mohamed Oanaw and his wife Mayra Casas were arrested and are now charged with allegedly cornering the gay man and beating him up.
It started Friday night when police said there was a small get together at an apartment complex in St. George. During that get together an argument broke out that allegedly involved the gay man and Oanaw and his wife.
The next day, police said the victim went back to the apartment complex to talk about the words that were exchanged during the argument the night before. But, according to the probable cause statement, Mohamed ran at the victim and punched him and started yelling sexual slurs at him.
"They didn't like who he was and what he does," Sgt. Sam Despain with St. George Police said. He added that Casas and Oanaw stole and damaged some of the victim's personal belongings.
"His property was taken from him, including a cell phone, which they damaged and broke."
Despain said the unique part about this attack is what both Mohamed and his wife yelled at the victim during the attack.
"They were using derogatory terms that were aimed and directed at the victim's sexual orientation," Despain said. In addition to those slurs, Mohamed is accused of exposing himself to the victim.
"There are certain crimes that hate crimes are associated with. Because of the criminal mischief and assault that took place, what would typically be a class B misdemeanor would be an A misdemeanor."
For people who fall victim to a crime like this, Despain said there are ways of protecting those people.
"Hate crime enhancement has been around for a while ... which is a great thing ... if somebody gets targeted for their specific beliefs. It's a good law you know it can help protect people."
The attorney's office has filed multiple charges on Oanaw and Casas under the hate crime statute and both are currently being held in Purgatory Correctional Facility.
In response to what police are calling this hate crime case, Equality Utah, an organization that supports the LGBT community sent out this statement:
"No Utahan should ever be the target of violence. Crimes of bias motivated by a person's sexuality, gender identity, race or religion should never be tolerated. We must stand united as a state and actively denounce hate crimes wherever they appear. Further, we must provide law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to protect the most vulnerable among us."
Troy Williams, Executive Director, Equality Utah