This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Millard County Sheriff's Office is offering a reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for a string of alleged crimes in Delta, including an assault that left a man with the slur "Die Fag" carved into his arm.
In each of three incidents including vandalism at the man's home, at the restaurant he owns with his three siblings and a robbery the responsible parties left behind homophobic threats that suggest they were motivated by gay hate, Sheriff Robert Dekker confirmed Friday.
"This is unusual," Dekker said. "This is the only problem we've had of this kind in Millard County, a hate-crime kind of thing."
The man's father, however, told The Salt Lake Tribune, that he is less certain that his 21-year-old son's sexual orientation has driven the unsettling attacks, although he declined to specifically state other reasons.
"We personally do not think he was targeted because he is gay," said Richard Jones Sr.
Jones said his family members, who are extremely close, are grateful for the support received from the Delta community, which has rallied around them.
"The town," he said, "has been phenomenal in their encouragement and their support."
News of the incidents, which were first reported by the magazine QSaltLake, sparked a media firestorm in tiny Delta, which is about 135 miles south of Salt Lake City and has roughly 3,500 residents.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, the only openly gay member of the Utah Legislature, also rushed to the rural farming community to lend his support and said he came back impressed not only with Jones' son, but also with the community.
"[He] is a terrific young man, who is strong and seems to have terrific character," said Dabakis, who also met with Dekker. "I think the community is horrified … but I think they are absolutely determined that they are not only going to stop the attacks but are also committed to catching the perpetrators."
Dekker said the incidents began April 25 when the 21-year-old was closing down Grand Central Station pizzeria and was jumped after taking out the trash. The assault left the man unconscious, with numerous cuts and bruises, Dekker said. It was during this attack that a sharp objected was used to carve the words "Die Fag" into the man's arm. He was hospitalized overnight, the sheriff said.
On April 30, the man and his family awoke to find the garage door on the northwest side of their home spray-painted with the words, "Die Fag," the sheriff and Jones said. On Wednesday, a rock was thrown through the man's bedroom window, followed by a Molotov cocktail that started a small fire, which the man put out, Dekker said.
The restaurant was also burglarized more than $1,700 was stolen that night and spray-painted with similar, homophobic threats, the sheriff said. Jones said two messages were scrawled on both sides of a door to the business: " You'll Die" and "Burn Fag."
In the wake of the three events, Dekker said he has increased patrols throughout Delta.