Sal Trejo has spent much of the last day reliving the terrifying end to his Saturday night out with his friends. “The beginning of the last 24 hours was very triggering,” Trejo says, reflecting on the video he shot over the weekend in which an unnamed man punched him in the face after Trejo told him he was gay. “Really, the second we started being called faggots is when we pulled out our phones.”
In his telling, Trejo and his three friends were standing on Salt Lake City’s Main Street between 300 and 400 South around 1:45 a.m. Sunday morning, waiting for an Uber. A man in a green T-shirt talking on his phone made homophobic remarks about the crowd, escalating his rhetoric until he called the women “fat pigs” and the men the aforementioned gay slur. “I think he must have perceived us as weak,” Trejo says. “He decided to come for us.”
In the video, which has amassed more than 67,000 views on Facebook, the unidentified man asks Trejo, “Are you gay, though?” Trejo says he is, after which the man asks, again, “Oh, then you’re gay?” As Trejo answers, the man throws a punch with his right hand, spinning the cell phone into the air.
Trejo says he and his friends walked toward the man after the assault—a short path from Bodega to J Dawgs. Trejo says the man, who appeared to be “very intoxicated,” pulled a knife on the group before getting into a car and driving away.
Salt Lake City Police sent out a tweet asking the public for more information on Sunday night. The following morning, the department shared that detectives had made contact with the suspect, who was “cooperating fully with the investigation.”
SLCPD Sgt. Brandon Shearer told City Weekly the suspect contacted local police on Monday morning and scheduled an interview with investigators within the next day. No charges have been filed yet, Shearer said. If the detectives find there’s probable cause, the man could be arrested after being questioned. Once the investigation is completed, the case will be turned over to the District Attorney’s office, which would then determine whether to file charges or keep investigating.
Shearer said he made contact with the detective assigned to the case this morning, who planned on going to local businesses along Main Street to see if there’s additional video footage other than the short clip Trejo posted.
“There’s multiple sides to every story. There’s the victims side, the suspect’s side and then witnesses’,” Shearer said, encouraging more members of the public to contact police if they have any more information about the case. “Anyone who was involved or witnessed it, we’d like to talk to.”
Trejo says he’s left the assault’s aftermath to the police. “I personally don’t want to have any other contact with him,” he says of his assailant. “I’m not seeking any type of revenge or anything … we were just trying to find him to hold him accountable.”
Trejo says he and his friends are very involved in Salt Lake City’s queer community, and they wanted their video to illuminate an all-too-common experience for LGBTQ residents. “We just don’t put up with bullshit,” Trejo says. “The interaction we had with this man, frankly, was bullshit.”
The incident was the latest in a string of occurrences targeting members of the city’s LGBTQ community. Last week, someone tore a Pride flag that flew above the entrance to Laziz Kitchen, a Lebanese restaurant owned by Moudi Sbeity and his husband, Sen. Derek Kitchen, the only openly gay member of the Utah Legislature. Over the summer, an angry mob chased four men from Salt Lake City’s Pride Festival into a dessert café, taunting them and yelling homophobic slurs while an employee blocked the antagonizers from coming inside.
Kitchen retweeted Trejo’s video, encouraging his peers to make the state a safer place for LGBTQ Utahns. “It’s time for the UT Legislature to act on hate crimes legislation,” he wrote, referring to a bill that would strengthen the state’s hate crimes law, currently stuck in legislative limbo.
For Trejo, reliving his trauma on a loop for the past 24 hours has been worth the conversation sparked by the viral episode. “Aggressiveness toward people that are different is not OK,” he says.
“People, especially queer people and people of color here in Utah, and women, experience all sorts of verbal and physical assaults all the time,” Trejo says, reflecting on the night’s events. “They just, like, messed with the wrong gays.”