SALT LAKE CITY – Officials have terminated the investigation into a string of violent hate crimes against a gay man and his family’s business in Delta after learning the incidents were staged.
In a press release issued Tuesday, the Millard County Sheriff’s Office said it’s investigation into a series of events centered around an alleged hate crime, has ended. The events center around 21-year-old Delta resident Rick Jones and the burglarizing and vandalizing on his family’s business, the Grand Central Pizzeria.
“The investigation has come to an end today with the admission of Richard (Rick) L. Jones, Jr. to having staged all of the incidents,” the sheriff’s office said in the release. “We are working with the Millard County Attorney’s Office to determine the next step.”
In April and June, it was reported that the Jones’ business and been the target of burglary, vandalism and theft. The Jones’ home was also targeted and Rick Jones’ room was allegedly firebombed by a Molotov coctail. In the April incident, Jones told police he was attacked by two men who beat him, tried to get him to drink bleach and carved anti-gay slurs into his arms.
Jones was hospitalized following that incident with a concussion and severe bruising.
The Millard County Sheriff’s Office said it was “actively and aggressively” investigating the case until Jones came forward about staging the incidents.
“Our client has acknowledged that these incidents really were a cry for help. He’s acknowledged that he’s responsible for them,” Brett Tolman, Jones’ attorney, told FOX 13. “Which is why we’ve asked for the termination of the investigation, which is why he’s wanted to quickly return money raised on his behalf. I think it’s a strong indication there are issues that need to be dealt with.”
In the wake of initial reports of the alleged hate crimes committed against Jones and his family’s business, support from across the state came pouring in. It also drew the attention of Lt. Governor Spencer Cox who pledged the state’s full support in finding those responsible.
Some who gave support to Jones and his family before Tuesday’s revelation now urge continued support in its wake.
Equality Utah issued the following statement on its Facebook page:
Equality Utah traveled to Delta earlier this month to meet with Rick and his family. LGBTQ youth in rural communities face tremendous challenges. Isolation and loneliness can lead to harmful behaviors. We do not believe that Rick’s actions were motivated by money or media fame. We hope that our community will be gentle in responding. All LGBTQ youth need compassion, love and support. We must show them that the world is full of possibility and they are a beautiful part of it. We send our love to the entire Jones family.
“We urge community members to continue to be supportive of the Jones family,” The Millard County Sheriff’s Office said in the release.
More on this story be found on Fox13now. Video below courtesy of Fox 13 News.
- Attacks on pizzeria owners being investigated as anti-gay hate crimes
- Governor signs LGBT anti-discrimination, religious freedoms amendments into law
- LGBT activists gather to support nondiscrimination ordinance; STGnews Videocast
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