Dante Weston*, survivor of a recent Salt Lake City gay bashing attempt, had been enjoying the festivities at Salt Lake City Pride last weekend when he, his husband and a couple of friends decided to have dinner across the street.
“We ended about 10:30 at night and our server, who was friends with the other couple we ate with, was in the back where the parking is and was upset,” he tells Hornet. “We asked her what was wrong and she pointed to a group of about 10 or 15 guys harassing this homeless woman, threatening her.”
The group of guys, described as “very clean cut, you know, like blond-haired, blue-eyed typical Utah 20-year-old boys,” had been harassing the woman and telling her “Go smoke crack and die.”
We walked closer to get a better view of what was going on. That’s kind of when it started, he says.
One of them reportedly said, “What’re you looking at, ya fuckin’ faggot.” Dante assumed that the group had been drinking.
Weston and his friends immediately decided the situation wasn’t safe, and as soon as they walked away they heard the group approaching behind them.
“They continued with the homophobic slurs. Said they were going to kill us,” he tells us, adding, “There were a lot of people out — pretty bold. There are people on the street who saw them well.”
Dante assumes the group had been drinking or doing drugs because they didn’t back off even when once among many other pedestrians. So Weston and his friends began walking more quickly towards an ice cream shop, called the Doki Doki dessert shop, near the restaurant where they ate.
Dante says he and his friends ran inside, and one of his friends told the shopkeeper, “You may want to lock the door. We’re being followed. We’re here for safety.”
The guy working at the shop, a man who has since been identified as employee Terrance Mannery, went to lock the front door of the shop. But when he got to the front door, one of the attackers got into the vestibule and pulled the shopkeeper outside. In the tumult, a column of chairs stacked in the vestibule toppled over, blocking the door into the shop, leaving Dante and his friends trapped inside.
For the next 20 or 30 seconds, they watched as the shopkeeper traded blows with some of the attackers outside. Mannery said he got punched at least seven times but didn’t suffer any serious injuries. The group of attackers fled when a security guard approached.
“I’ve been taunted in high school before — name calling, being threatened — and this was just way beyond that,” Dante tells us. “They were looking for somebody to take down, and it just felt malicious.”
“I feared for my life,” he adds.
Weston and his friends summoned a Lyft car to leave the area in case the attackers were still roaming nearby. Their driver, Ross Rogers — himself a gay man who has a rainbow flag sticker on his vehicle — had been sitting in his car nearby while the attack unfolded.
Rogers told the Salt Lake Tribune, “I could hear one of [Dante’s friends] start crying,” said Rogers. “I dropped them off and went two blocks around the corner, pulled over, locked my doors and started crying myself.”
“It really scared me,” Rogers said. “It was so emotional to see people be so mean and have so much vengeance and so much hate toward someone for no reason.”
The attackers remain at large, partly because there’s no video evidence. Salt Lake City Police Detective Greg Wilking said investigators need the public’s help to identify the suspects, and anyone with information can call police at (801) 799-3000. The Utah Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has also offered $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and prosecution.
*The interviewee has asked us to us an alias in retelling his story of the attempted Salt Lake City gay bashing because “Salt Lake City has a small-town feel, and if you know someone’s name it’s pretty easy to find them.” He says he’s out to his family and co-workers but is afraid of being targeted by his attackers, especially since they remain at large.