Sheriff defends deputy ‘attacked’ in stomped sign ‘hate crime’ arrest

Jul 14, 2021, 4:16 PM | Updated: 4:57 pm
Photo credit: Shutterstock

PANGUITCH — The Garfield County sheriff says the deputy who arrested a woman for allegedly stomping on a pro-police sign was “singled out and attacked” simply for being a law enforcement officer.

Sheriff James D. Perkins issued a prepared statement Wednesday — five days after KSL.com first reported the arrest of a 19-year-old California woman who was later charged with a hate crime by Garfield County prosecutors.

The statement comes after the incident involving Lauren Gibson received local and national attention in articles by the Washington Post and the Daily Beast, and prompted a response by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said Utah’s hate crimes statute was not intended for situations like Gibson’s arrest.

On July 7, Gibson was in one of three vehicles traveling together through Panguitch. The vehicles were pulled over for going 50 mph in a 30 mph zone, according to Perkins’ statement posted on Facebook Wednesday. Despite speeding and despite having tobacco products in the car and being underage, the sheriff said the drivers were not issued any citations. But the Daily Beast said Gibson told them that her friend did receive a speeding ticket.

After the traffic stop was completed, Perkins said several occupants from the vehicles “left the area” and “soon returned with an alleged stolen ‘Back the Blue’ sign.” The deputy’s booking affidavit does not say the group left and came back, but says: “As I concluded my traffic stop and released the individuals, I observed some of the individual’s friends approach them and attempt to console them.”

The deputy’s report says Gibson stomped on the sign and then crumpled it up “in a destructive manner” and threw it in a trash can “all while smirking in an intimidating manner towards me.”

Perkins’ statement Wednesday said Gibson “showed extremely aggressive and violent behavior” toward the deputy in “a very busy parking lot.”

“Ms. Gibson caused a public disturbance and purposely targeted the officer in a very unpeaceful manner,” the sheriff said. “The simple fact is, while this officer was doing his duty in a proactive and compassionate manner, he was singled out and attacked by this person because he was a law enforcement officer.”

Perkins added that his office is “greatly disturbed by the hatred shown to law enforcement officers for no apparent reason.”

The deputy further noted that he arrested Gibson and booked her into jail “due to Gibson destroying property that did not belong to her in a manner to attempt to intimidate law enforcement.” He suggested the case be “treated as a hate crime enhanced allegation” because of the “demeanor displayed by Gibson in attempts to intimidate law enforcement while destroying a pro law enforcement sign.”

Two days later, the Garfield County Attorney’s Office charged Gibson in 6th District Court with criminal mischief. The charge was filed with a hate crime enhancement, making it a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The woman was also charged with disorderly conduct, an infraction.

On Monday, the ACLU of Utah issued a statement saying it is “extremely troubled and disappointed” with the criminal charge.

“This kind of charging decision sends an extremely chilling message to the community that the government will seek harsher punishment for people charged with crimes who disagree with police actions. This concern is even greater because we do not view the enhancement as supportable under the language of the statute,” the ACLU said.

“Bringing a charge against this person that could result in her spending a year in jail makes no sense both in terms of simple fairness and expending the county’s time and money.”

According to the charging documents, the criminal mischief charge with a hate crime enhancement was filed because the woman damaged or destroyed the sign “with the intent to intimidate or terrorize another person or with reason to believe that her action would intimidate or terrorize that person.”

Utah’s hate crime statute for civil rights states, “‘Intimidate or terrorize’ means an act which causes the person to fear for his physical safety or damages the property of that person or another. The act must be accompanied with the intent to cause or has the effect of causing a person to reasonably fear to freely exercise or enjoy any right secured by the Constitution or laws of the state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

Please read the rest of the KSL.com story here.


Today’s Top Stories


A Bountiful police vehicle is pictured in Bountiful on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (Kristin Murphy/Des...
Samantha Herrera

13 year old hospitalized after being run over in Bountiful

A 13-year-old was sent to the hospital with a collapsed lung and broken ribs after he was run over while crossing a crosswalk in Bountiful.
14 hours ago
Two Murray police cruisers are shown...
Mark Jones

Explosion inside motorhome being investigated

One person was taken to the hospital with minor burns after an explosion inside a motorhome Wednesday evening in Murray.
2 days ago
Photo of Roy Police cruiser...
Mark Jones

Update: 5-year-old still in critical condition after being hit by truck while riding balance bike

Police say the driver is cooperating and it didn't appear that speed or impairment were contributing factors.
2 days ago
Rounds missing Box Elder County...
Mark Jones

Deputies say evidence pointing to likely homicide in case of Dylan Rounds

Deputies with the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office say evidence in the case of missing 19-year-old Dylan Rounds supports that a homicide likely took place.
2 days ago
Rows of autism sensory packets are pictured at the Utah Highway Patrol office on Oct. 5, 2022 in Mu...
Adam Small

Utah Highway Patrol receives tools for interactions with people with autism

Autism sensory bags will help Utah Highway Patrol troopers de-escalate situations that could be stressful for everyone involved.
2 days ago
Unified Police sign pictured, they are investigating a crash in Millcreek from this morning...
Samantha Herrera

Crash in Millcreek leaves motorcyclist in critical condition

A crash in Millcreek this morning sent a man in his 20s to the hospital. The other driver involved stayed on the scene and cooperated, according to police.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Sheriff defends deputy ‘attacked’ in stomped sign ‘hate crime’ arrest