The family of the 22-year-old Utah man forced to drink bleach and had “Die Fag” cut into his arm in a horrific string of anti-gay hate crimes is speaking out, saying they won’t be intimidated by the assailants.
“When you attack any member of our family, you attack everybody here. This is not just against my son, it is against every single one of us,” said Terri Jones, Rick Jones’ mother, to Utah station KSL. “We’re not going to back down, we’re not going to close the restaurant if we can keep from it. We’re not going to move from Delta, we’re not going to be afraid. … The only thing we can do is stand strong as a family.”
The sheriff’s office is investigating several leads and is offering a reward for information about the crimes. The sheriff called the case a priority for his agency, which has assigned multiple detectives to the investigation.
“In all of my years I can’t remember anything like this ever happening before, so it’s something we want to get a handle on as soon as we can,” [Millard County Sheriff Robert] Dekker said.
In the meantime, the Jones family’s pizzeria has been bustling with supportive community members. The Baptist family has lived in Delta for almost 30 years and opened the restaurant about six months ago.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Sen. Jim Dabakis, the only openly gay member of the Utah Legislature, rushed down to the small farmtown after hearing about the news.
“[He] is a terrific young man, who is strong and seems to have terrific character,” said Dabakis. “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.”
Watch a KSL news report on the story below: