DELTA – The Millard County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a string of possible hate crimes committed against a Delta family since April. The latest incident occurred Wednesday.
Wednesday evening, according to a statement from the Millard County Sheriff’s Office, Grand Central Pizzeria and Grill in Delta was burglarized and vandalized, and money was stolen from the restaurant. That same evening, the Jones family, owners of the restaurant, were victimized at their home.
CNN reports someone threw a Molotov cocktail through restaurant co-owner Rick Jones’ bedroom window Wednesday night. The device didn’t explode but ignited a fire in his room, burning a wall and a portion of the carpet. Jones was able to put the fire out with an extinguisher.
KSL reports a rock bearing words referencing homosexuality was also thrown through the window.
Wednesday wasn’t the first time Jones has been specifically targeted. During the first incident, which occurred in April, he was closing up the family’s restaurant, CNN reported, and had sent the other employees home. He was taking trash out through the rear door of the business when he said someone hit him from behind, forced him down and tried to make him drink bleach.
Jones woke up in the hospital hours later. He had a concussion and severe bruising, and the attacker or attackers had carved anti-gay slurs into the inner parts of his arms. The perpetrators had also stolen more than $1,000 from the restaurant.
The next day, the same anti-gay messages were spray-painted on the garage door of the Delta home Jones and his sisters share with their parents.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox issued the following statement Friday regarding the incidents:
I was horrified and heart-broken to learn of this cowardly and barbaric assault. The Jones family is an upstanding, well-respected and beloved part of the Delta community. Immediately upon learning of the hateful acts, we offered county officials the full support of the state in finding the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.
I have reached out to the family and expressed our deepest concern, solidarity and love. This will not stand. I believe that over the coming days we will see an unprecedented outpouring of love and support from every corner of our great state. That is the real Utah.
The perpetrators have reportedly stolen thousands of dollars from the restaurant since the series of incidents began.
While the incidents are being investigated as anti-gay hate crimes, Jones’ father, Richard Jones Sr., told the Salt Lake Tribune he isn’t convinced the crimes have been motivated by his son’s sexual orientation, though he declined to specify why.
The Sheriff’s Office is investigating several leads in the case, according to the press statement.
“There is a reward available to anyone providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators of these crimes,” the statement said.
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