DELTA, Utah — Rick Jones sent the employees home from his family’s pizza restaurant and carried the garbage out the back door.
“I thought it was strange that I didn’t hear it close,” he said. “I was knocked out and then suddenly someone was forcing my legs and hands down and trying to get me to drink bleach.”
21-year-old Jones woke up a few hours later in the hospital with a concussion, serious bruises and a message of hate carved into the inside part of his arms.
“On one arm it said ‘die’ and on the other arm it said ‘(expletive)’,” he said.
Unfortunately, he’d see those words again in coming weeks.
The assault was the first in a series of crimes committed against Jones, a lifelong resident of Delta, a town of about 3,500 people in western Utah.
‘Hate crime investigation’
Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox issued a statement on Friday about the “hate crime investigation.”
“I was horrified and heartbroken to learn of this cowardly and barbaric assault,” Cox said. “The Jones family is an upstanding, well-respected and beloved part of the Delta community. This will not stand.”
“In all of my years I can’t remember anything like this ever happening before, so it’s something we want to get a handle on as soon as we can,” Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker told CNN affiliate KSL.
The criminals did more than hurt Jones that night. They took $1,300 from the restaurant he owns with his three sisters, Grand Central Pizzeria and Grill.
Then the crimes started to hit home. Literally.
The following day, somebody went to the home in Delta where Jones lives with his parents and sisters and spray-painted the same malicious words onto the garage door.
More than a month passed.
On June 10, Jones woke up to the sound of a crash. Somebody had thrown a Molotov cocktail through his bedroom window.
“It didn’t explode but it started a fire that burnt the wall and some of my carpet,” he said. “It actually landed on my bed. I ran and warned my family ‘there is a fire’ and I got a fire extinguisher and was able to quickly get the fire out.”
Also thrown through the window was a rock that “had some writing on it that referenced homosexuality,” Dekker told KSL.
That same night the pizza restaurant was robbed again, police said.
The thieves took $1,800 and vandalized the business, Jones said.
“They painted the words, ‘You’ll burn’ and ‘die (expletive)’ on the walls,” he said.
Terri Jones, his mother, said the community has been supportive and the family is standing strong.
“When you attack any member of our family, you attack everybody here. This is not just against my son, it is against every single one of us,” she told KSL. “We’re not going to back down, we’re not going to close the restaurant if we can keep from it. We’re not going to move from Delta, we’re not going to be afraid.”
Rick Jones told CNN he’s left wondering who wants to hurt him.
“I’ve lived here my whole live with my family,” Jones said. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I don’t have any known enemies, but obviously I have one somewhere.”