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Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Chris Palomarez had six stitches in his forehead after he and a co-worker were attacked Sunday outside a Radio Shack near 9400 South and 700 East.

SANDY — A weekend attack in which a man was beaten with brass knuckles and then hit by a car appears prompted by the assailants' belief he and his friend were Mormon missionaries.

Although investigators screened the case as a possible hate crime, prosecutors determined there was not enough evidence to support a hate crime charge, said Sandy Police Sgt. Mitch Howard.

Instead, 21-year-old Joseph Patrick Romero was charged Tuesday in 3rd District Court with aggravated assault, a third-degree degree felony, and driving on a suspended license, a class C misdemeanor. He was being held Tuesday on $20,000 bail.

A 17-year-old boy was also referred to juvenile detention. Another 17-year-old was released to his parents.

The incident began Sunday about 3 p.m. while 21-year-old Chris Palomarez and a co-worker, 19-year-old Trey Mismash, were working at Radio Shack near 9400 South and 700 East. The two had stepped outside for a break to play a little football, according to court documents.

Both men happened to be wearing white shirts, black pants and name tags on their shirts that day. The name tags said "Radio Shack."

While they were talking, a car with three people slowly drove by them, Palomarez said. The group stared at them, then yelled obscenities at them.

"They said, 'Go back to church you (expletive) Mormons,' " Palomarez said.

Palomarez, who isn't even a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said he originally had no idea why the men were yelling at them.

"It was really out of the blue," he said. "I couldn't believe this."

Palomarez yelled back at the vehicle, according to court records. The car then turned around, and one of the occupants jumped out carrying brass knuckles, charged at Palomarez and hit him in the head with the brass knuckles.

Just as Palomarez grabbed hold of his attacker and threw him to the ground, "at the last second I saw in my blind spot the car coming after me," he said.

Palomarez said the car hit his knees just as he was trying to jump on one leg out of the way. Instead, the collision propelled him onto the car, where his chest hit the windshield.

Palomarez said he rolled around while the car was still moving and ended up on his back while hanging onto the hood. The car traveled for another 15 to 25 feet, he said, before the driver slammed on the brakes and tossed Palomarez to the ground.

"Witnesses said he tried to hit me twice," he said.

At that point Palomarez said he was conscious but in shock.

"There was massive blood just dripping down (from my head)," he said.

Mismash was not injured. He was able, however, to get the license plate number from the vehicle, which he later passed on to investigators who used the information to track down the suspects.

Palomarez was taken to the hospital for head trauma and had X-rays taken of his chest and legs as a precaution.

Tuesday, Palomarez was back at work with six stitches on the side of his head but otherwise looking OK. He was still in disbelief over the attack.

"They just didn't like you because you looked like a Mormon missionary. They didn't even know," he said. "This world's crazy. I can't believe it. I can't believe being a missionary can get you in that much trouble."


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com