Rick Jones may have suffered amnesia after so many blows to the head. But the words “Die Fag,” sliced into both of his scarred arms make it impossible to forget the first ambush.
It was April 25 at closing time at his family’s pizzeria just off Main Street in downtown Delta, Utah. Jones told his hands to go home.
Then the 27-year-old was suddenly cold-clocked, force-fed bleach, and robbed by bandits. Months passed. Then, this past Wednesday, Jones’s life was almost snuffed when his bedroom went alight at dawn immediately after some maniac tossed a Molotov cocktail that crashed into his window. Miraculously, it didn’t detonate.
The attack on Jones was particularly ferocious. But it wasn’t uncommon, unfortunately. Out of the almost 6,000 hate crimes committed in 2013—the last year for which statistics are available—20 percent (approximately 1,200 that year) were based on victims’ sexual orientation, according to the FBI.
This incident started with Jones thinking he couldn’t be touched.
The family-owned Grand Central Pizzeria, which Jones runs along with his sisters and parents, has a policy in place for safety’s sake to never close up solo. “He sent his last employees home for the night saying, ‘I’ll finish this,’” Ricky’s mom Terri Jones, who works as a chef at the eatery, told The Daily Beast. “My son, being a male, was thinking he’s invincible.”
Alone, and with a few duties such as batching receipts and tossing the trash outside, everything seemed routine until Jones was broadsided and outnumbered.
“I went out to take out the trash, and when I came back in I thought it was strange that I didn’t hear the door close,” Jones told Gay Salt Lake. “I turned around to shut the door, and someone grabbed me by the head and slammed me to the wall.”
In almost sicko ninja fashion, the robbers sicced Jones from behind. He never caught a glimpse of the invaders who proceeded to pummel him into unconsciousness.
The beach-blonde young man was tossed like a ragdoll against the wall and socked in the jaw. Jones managed to regain consciousness to see an intruder pinning him down. “I remember waking up and I was lying on the floor,” he said. “Someone was on my chest and legs and they were trying to force me to drink bleach.”
At one point he managed to make a bizarre phone call to his mom who was at home nearby the Grand Central Pizzeria restaurant.
“He called us and mentioned, ‘I can’t remember the combination to the safe. Do you have it,’” Terri Jones recalled. “We’re thinking he was forced to make that call.”
Then the cruel crooks defiled her only son.
They knifed into his forearms “Die Fag” and scurried away with over $1,000 from the eatery’s safe.
“They took all the money but they did not destroy anything else or take anything—and we have expensive food,” she said, stressing that her son has been afflicted with amnesia after the episode.
He was left for naught for three hours of eerie unconsciousness on the floor after suffering a massive concussion, a goose egg on his head and a bruised jaw after being socked.
The cruel crooks were calculated and made a clean getaway, the concerned mother said.
“They were very prepared and this was very well-planned,” she noted, downplaying the vile homophobic hate speech tattooed on her son and peppered in each attack. “My thought is that it’s somebody that saw a quick and easy way to make money and kept robbing us,” she said, with anguish causing her voice to break.
The family-owned and run restaurant shuttered for a couple days and tried to play down the vicious attack on Ricky on its Facebook page. “After Saturday night’s events, we are closed tonight only… Thank you all for the love and support. It has been a great encouragement.”
Then—not a week later, on April 30—Ricky Jones and his family were met with the same “Die Fag” missive, spray painted on their garage door, authorities told The Daily Beast.
“It was just five days later and they tagged our garage,” Terri Jones said.
On Wednesday, a few days after Utah Pride Festival Weekend concluded, the Jones family was attacked twice again. Thieves tossed a rock into the restaurant and jimmied open another backdoor in the middle of the night to empty the safe again.
“We changed the safe combination and somehow they were still able to steal everything inside,” she fumed of the safe that was tucked in the pizzeria’s back office. “We will be talking to the manufacturer of the safe because we feel like they sold us a faulty product.”
Later that same day, the family, sound asleep, was firebombed.
“We were all sound asleep in bed and Ricky heard a crash and felt something land in the bed next to him,’ Terri Jones said. “It was a rock and then he saw flames on his floor and he jumped out of bed and started yelling ‘Fire!’”
The soda bottle filled with gasoline had landed setting Ricky Jones’s room alight. But the device failed to explode. “He jumped out of bed and took the extinguisher and began spraying the flames out.”
The mother of the faithful Baptist family believes there was some form of divine intervention at play. “The bottle, when it hit it the bed and broke off and fell to the floor, if [the soda bottle] had broken my Ricky wouldn’t be here… It’s only by God’s hand that he’s safe. I strongly believe he has kept him safe and will keep him safe,” she said.
Right now the mother is trying to play sentry over her family but is at a loss on who would want to rip them off and target her beloved son. “I don’t know anybody who is more liked than our son,” she said.
Detectives are trying to catch whoever did this by ramping up their patrols and keeping a closer eye on the victim. But the string of attacks is doing a number on a the town of Delta, Utah (population just under 3,500) which was described by Jones’s mom as a real life utopia.
Yet after multiple robberies and bigoted-fueled salvos against her family Terri Jones is terrified to be home or anywhere else.
“This just doesn’t happen here,” she told The Daily Beast in a phone interview. “The town is kind of like a Mayberry. People are kind and they are supportive and gracious. It’s a great community to live in. We are very confused by all of this.”
“It’s nice to think we’re Mayberry but we passed that a long time ago,” Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker told The Daily Beast.
Lindsay Mitchell, who has been running the records department at the sheriff’s office for a decade, said that hate crime is alien to Delta. “I’ve been doing records for ten years and there’s never been anything nothing like this before,” she said. “We have the usual drug crimes, traffic offenses and there’s times when they busted different meth labs. But this is new.”
On the pattern of assaults and money grabs on the Jones family—specifically targeting Ricky Jones, Sheriff Dekker is certain it adds up to the worst kind of prejudice. “There’s no doubt I would call it a hate crime,” he said. “Each incident refers to something about [Jones] being gay saying ‘Die Fag!’”
While Millard County Sheriffs are chalking Ricky Jones’s attacks as hate crimes, Jones’s mother is not trying to let the incidents get swallowed up by some sort of political agenda. All Terri Jones wants to do is to protect her family, and is praying the deputies catch these fiends. “Hate is hate no matter how you put it,” she said. “Whether somebody hates you because of your religion or the color of your skin or because they don’t like the tone of your voice it’s all the same.”