Fight over Confederate flag decal could be investigated as hate crime

An assault Sunday on a man who had a Confederate flag decal on his truck could be investigated as a hate crime, Salt Lake City cops said.

Cellphone video of the encounter shows a black man punching and knocking out a white man during an argument purportedly about the rebel insignia, FOX13 reported. The two men exchange words before the assailant drops the white man to the ground with a vicious right hook.

“I’ll be damned if I ever come to Salt Lake again without bringing my gun,” said Kelly Leeper, who was at the scene and is a friend of the man who was punched.

“The point is, it’s my right to drive any kind of vehicle I want. If I want to fly the Confederate Flag, it’s my right"

— Kelly Leeper

Leeper’s friend, who is not identified, owned the truck, which was parked in a lot outside the Red Lion Hotel and reportedly filled with $50,000 worth of welding equipment.

At some point Sunday, Leeper said he looked out his hotel room window and saw a group of black men converging near the truck. Leeper and his friend, who were in town for a Garth Brooks concert, went out to confront the group, and the incident quickly devolved into a fight.

“They were telling him he needs to move his truck, it’s their parking lot,” Leeper told FOX13.

After Leeper’s friend was knocked to the ground, the group of men goes after Leeper, pummeling him repeatedly. A picture taken at the scene shows him with blood around his nose and mouth.

“The point is, it’s my right to drive any kind of vehicle I want,” Leeper said. “If I want to fly the Confederate Flag, it’s my right.”

Leeper said racial slurs were hurled in both directions during the brawl, something that could raise the episode to the level of a hate crime, police say.

“It could potentially be a hate crime,” Sgt. Robin Heiden said. “We’ll then present all that to the district attorney, who will make that final determination.”

Leeper said he and his friend were not seriously injured, but both sustained bruises and cuts. The video of the incident has been turned over to the police along with a partial license plate of the silver two-door vehicle the suspects are thought to have driven away in, 9-7-S-20.

“Somebody thought to get a plate number as well, and that’s really going to help in this case,” Heiden said. “I think we’ll probably be able to track down that vehicle.”