The Payson Police Department has made an arrest in connection with a racist attack on a black missionary with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, 19-year-old Payson local Sebastian Francis West was arrested on suspicion of assault and criminal mischief Thursday morning.
The incident in question occurred on Jan. 28 near 285 North and 100 East in Payson when the victim, who identified his race as black Panamanian to police, was with his companion as they traveled to the home of a family they were going to teach.
The victim told officials that as he and his companion were nearing the home, six individuals wearing dark hoodies, some with red bandanas covering their faces, approached them. The victim also reported that the individuals started the altercation by yelling at him, using racially-charged language, according to the probable cause affidavit.
The suspects then took the missionary’s phone and threw it into the roadway, reportedly causing damage to the screen. As the victim went to retrieve the phone, the suspects followed him, continuing to yell racial slurs, mocking his religion and making threats to “slit his mother’s throat.”
The victim also told officers that one of the suspects had a pair of brass knuckles with sharp spikes on the ends of them, wearing one in each hand. This particular suspect, he alleged, made threatening gestures toward the victim.
That’s when each of the suspects allegedly attacked the victim, punching him in the head and face, kicking him in the torso and shoving him to the ground. While he was on the ground, the suspects held his waist and legs to keep him from fleeing, according to the probable cause statement. The victim was reportedly able to push the suspects away from him and free himself before the suspects fled the area.
Officers noted that the suspects did not target the victim’s Caucasian companion at any time during the altercation.
Alongside the victim’s phone, his prescription glasses, valued at around $1,000, were also broken in the assault.
Police noted in their affidavit that “the suspects ‘imitated’ and ‘terrorized’ the victim by surrounding him, calling him racial slurs and telling him to get out of their ‘hood’ and to go back to where he came from.”
The offenses are also being viewed as “gang enhanced” as the suspects’ actions were done so in concert with each other.