A vicious and apparently unprovoked assault upon a gay man in downtown Salt Lake City has outraged the local community. First out of the box with this story was QSaltLake; mainstream media outlets like the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, and KSL Channel 5 have now picked it up. KSL news video embedded below:
Summary: Twenty-year-old Dane Hall, an openly-gay man, was partying at the Club Sound on 579 W. 200 South in downtown Salt Lake on Friday August 26th, 2011. Friday night is the club's "gay-themed night"; the club, which already has heavy security including many video cameras and security guards both inside and outside the building, becomes even tighter. Hall said he left Club Sound late on Friday and crossed the street to the corner of 600 West and 200 South when four men approached him and began yelling gay slurs. He attempted to ignore them and walk away, but he was punched in the back of the head and knocked to the ground, after which one of the assailants grabbed his shirt and started punching him in the face. After Hall fell to the ground again, the attacker grabbed him and "curb-checked" him. Curb-checking, popularized in the movie American History X, means placing the man's open mouth over the street curb and stomping on the back his head. In the case of Dane Hall, it resulted in six teeth being knocked out, a shattered cheekbone, a jaw broken in three places, and a piece of his jawbone jammed into his brain. Two other assailants then kicked him repeatedly in the stomach. The attackers called him a "fag", took his identification and $40, and departed; they were described by Hall as being light-skinned and wearing red. The attack lasted less than a minute.
Hall managed to get up after the attack, and walked toward a police officer and a medical crew about a half-block away. Police were busy working another issue and couldn't take a report from him. Hall persuaded the medics not to call an ambulance because he thought he couldn't afford a doctor; instead, two of his friends drove him to LDS Hospital, where he was given a shot and woke up the next morning at the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. At that time, he filed a police report.
Aftermath: Dane Hall is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators. He estimates that medical expenses could top $40,000, which he'll have to pay unless the attackers are found because he has no insurance. Accounts in his name have already been set up at Zion's Bank and Wells Fargo; all one has to do is to visit any branch and tell an employee you want to contribute to the Dane Hall Fund. Anyone with information about the assailants or any possible leads is asked to call the Salt Lake Police Department at 801-799-3000.
The same four assailants may have been involved in a second homophobic attack in the same area just before they encountered Dane Hall. Club Sound owner Tom Taylor said when he left his club that night, he encountered a man who lived in a nearby apartment, and who was bloody and asking for help. The unidentified man was reportedly asleep on the couch in his apartment when a group of "straight-edgers" broke in and attacked him. As Taylor drove up to the man, he saw a group of four other men run away; just 10 minutes later, Hall was attacked in the same area.
The mainstream media has been criticized for being a bit slow to pick up the story, and police have also been criticized for being particularly close-mouthed about their specific intentions, such as whether or not they will push for hate crime charges. Unfortunately, apprehension of the suspects is necessary before police can be more forthcoming. Unlike the vast majority of states, Utah does not have a law protecting people who share a group characteristic; instead, Utah’s laws focus on the intent of the perpetrator rather than the status of the victim. This is a better approach which generates more sympathy for the victim and encourages prosecutors to press for the maximum degree of charges. A case could easily be made for first-degree aggravated assault, and, in the case of the individual doing the "curb-checking", attempted murder.
Public comments to the various media sources indicate UNIVERSAL and justifiable outrage over this crime. Even the most fervent social conservatives find this crime repulsive. If found guilty, the perpetrators need to be punished to the MAXIMUM extent of the law.