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Brutal beating of Hispanic Washington teen sparks call for hate crime charge

Susannah Frame


Nov 2, 2020

Community advocates believe a life-threatening assault on a 17-year-old was motivated by racism and hate, but prosecutors disagree.

The decision to not charge a Burlington 19-year-old with a hate crime after he allegedly brutally beat a Hispanic teenager in March has sparked outrage in the Skagit County community.

During the assault, which was videotaped by the attacker on a cell phone and posted on social media via Snapchat, 17-year-old Joel Salgado of Burlington was repeatedly called the n-word, and a homophobic slur was written across his forehead while he laid unconscious on a concrete patio, according to police records.

The accused, who is out on bail, is white.

Last year the Washington state Legislature passed the state’s first-ever hate crime bill. The law calls for a person to be guilty of a hate crime if the commission of certain offenses was motivated by the perception of the victim’s “race, color, religion…. sexual orientation…or disability.” Before this change, these crimes were labeled “malicious harassment.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle, said it’s important to call these crimes exactly what they are – manifestations of hate – to better hold people accountable and to track trends of crimes based on bias, such as racism.

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