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Police request attack on black missionary be prosecuted as a hate crime

(Malachi West, left, Sebastian West, right. Credit: Utah County Jail) The two brothers were officially charged with hate crimes after being accused of an attack against a black missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

PAYSON – Investigators say they’re still trying to find more people accused of attacking a black missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Two people are in custody, and officers are explaining why it took weeks for those arrests to happen.

Police say they had always considered Sebastian West as a person of interest in the attack.  However, the description of the 5 to 6 suspects were incredibly vague, with some of them reportedly covering their faces with bandanas.

“Even though we had some descriptions of the individuals, we didn’t have anybody that could positively say it was ‘this person’ or ‘that person.’  We had some suspicions,” says Payson Police Sergeant Noemi Sandoval.

Investigators say things changed when a patrol officer was called to the area for a completely unrelated disturbance call.  Sandoval says when the patrol officer saw West was there, he called for the detective investigating the assault.

“When the detective arrived there, he interviewed him regarding this particular assault on the missionary,” Sandoval says.  “Post-Miranda, he admitted to involvement in the incident.”

Sebastian and Malachi West were taken into custody and booked for investigation of assault and criminal mischief.  Sandoval says they’re asking prosecutors charge the suspects with hate crimes, since they were saying racial and religious slurs during the attack.  However, she says that decision isn’t up to them.

“The County Attorney’s [Office] has the ultimate say as to what gets filed,” she says.