No ‘hate crime’ charges? Man arrested for cutting power of home, attacking gay couple ‘with a chisel’

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NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FL – A 31-year-old man in New Smyrna Beach was arrested for allegedly cutting the power of a home and attacking one of the individuals who resides in said home.

Now police officials say this crime may have been motivated due to the suspect’s alleged bias against those hosting a certain sexual orientation.

On the evening of February 7th, police were contacted at approximately 11:16 p.m. about a stabbing incident involving one victim at a residence located off of Inwood Avenue.

When police arrived at the scene, the stabbing victim and his boyfriend alleged that they were sitting inside of their home when their power suddenly went down.

When the victim went to go check the circuit breaker to see what the issue may have been, he was allegedly attacked by the suspect, later identified as Damiek Jones.

The suspect was alleged to have struck the victim in the head with what police believe to have been brass knuckles, and then began stabbing the victim’s legs with a chisel.

During this time, the victim’s boyfriend was said to have heard the commotion going on outside, and reportedly chased down the suspect and saw him discard – either by throwing or burying – something in a neighboring yard.

Officials say that the stabbing victim was able to identify the attacker as Jones, as the suspect’s face allegedly became visible during the attack due to the bandana allegedly used to conceal his identity had slipped off during the incident.

Police were said to have searched the neighboring yard where the victim’s boyfriend thought he saw the suspect discard something, which police say they’d discovered a chisel that was stuck into the ground near that area.

A bandana, hat, and scarf were also found nearby the chisel as well.

Another interesting piece of evidence found by police was a backpack that reportedly carried drug paraphernalia, methamphetamine, pills, a knife, nunchucks and a journal.

And it was the purported contents of this journal that lead police to believe that this crime was motivated by Jones’ harboring disdain for those with varying sexual orientations.

According to police, there’s an excerpt within the journal that specifically names the victim and his boyfriend – and two other unaffiliated women – as being among a group of people he hated:

“I now understand that to hate them all is a requirement. (The victim and boyfriend) and now (names two women), all of you shall have a moment of fate to look forward too.”

Investigators wrote in their report that, “this is clearly referring to the victim and his boyfriend.”

Damiek Jones mugshot
Damiek Jones – Volusia County Branch Jail

 Jones was later arrested on February 8th under charges of second-degree misdemeanor with prejudice, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a Schedule IV substance.

He’s being held at the Volusia County Branch Jail, with his bond having been set at $25,500.

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Speaking of other potential crimes of bias, the FBi are investigating an explosion that transpired at a church in California back in January. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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EL MONTE, CA- The FBI and other local authorities are actively investigating an explosion that took place early morning on Saturday, January 23rd at an El Monte church whose stance against the LGBTQ+ community has raised tensions in the community in recent weeks.

According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, First Works Baptist Church was threatened earlier in the month with an arson attack over its extremist views and condemnation of same-sex marriage.

Then, on January 23rd, a homemade bomb was thrown at the building causing the windows to blow out. FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said that no one was injured during the explosion. 

Authorities are now investigating the attack, which it said involved an “IED” or a homemade or “improvised” explosive device. The El Monte Police Department also said that the church was vandalized. El Monte Police Chief David Reynoso said in a statement:

“An improvised explosive device was apparently detonated here at the church, causing some damage.”

San Bernardino hate-speech expert Brian Levin said that the church has been a recent target of protests, asserting that the government should execute gay people. He said:

“The church has been a target of protesters because of the horrifying assertion that the government should execute gay people. Especially at a time when we are seeing the LGBTQ community be hit by a string of violent crimes including a record year for transgender homicides.”

Levin added:

“We don’t combat prejudice with spray paint and bombs.”

FBI spokeswoman Eimiller said:

“As to the question of whether this was a hate crime, that’s always going to be considered among the theories when a house of worship is attacked. But, it would be premature to confirm any motive at this time and we are not ruling any other motive out.”

While the motive remains under investigation, L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said that she is aware of “anti-LGBTQ+ and misogynistic sermons” given by the church’s pastor. She said that her office has referred the case to the county’s human rights commission, but stressed that “violence is never the answer.”

El Monte police heard the explosion around 1:15 a.m. Lt. Christopher Cano said in a statement:

“When our units arrived at the scene, they found the church was having some smoke come out of the windows. It appeared that the walls to the church had been vandalized as well as all the windows.”

He added:

“The windows appeared at first to be smashed, then we realized that the windows were not smashed, that they had actually blown out from some type of explosion.”

Officers evacuated 14 homes and eight apartments within the vicinity of the church. No injuries were reported and residents were allowed back into their homes by 8 a.m. Lt. Cano said that police called for a bomb squad from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to ensure there were no “secondary devices.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the church a hate group for being anti-LGBTQ. The church is also the subject of a Change.org campaign that is seeking to oust the place of worship from El Monte. The petition started three weeks ago and has so gar garnered more than 15,338 signatures. 

Pastor Bruce Mejia recently reported an arson threat on social media and that the police chief said his department was monitoring the situation. During public comments at an El Monte City Council meeting earlier in January, some residents called the pastor’s sermons hate speech.

Mejia said in an interview on January 11th that part of his beliefs and his doctrine is to preach against the LGBTQ community. He said that he has been doing so since the church started about three years ago. He said:

“Some of those within that LGBTQ group caught one of my sermons that are online and they’ve just been harassing ever since, trying to get me out of El Monte, trying to get me and myself and my church out of El Monte by signing a petition.”

The church is involved with a network of anti-LGBTQ churches that used a “Make American Straight Again” conference to:

“Move beyond its stock fallacies and hate-filled rhetoric and call for the government to being rounding up and executing homosexuals.”

A group called “Keep El Monte Friendly” had planned a protest at the church for Sunday, January 24th. On Saturday, after the incident happened, the group said on its Instagram:

“We are aware of what’s happened. We will update the page when we have more information. Stay safe everyone.”

Pastor Mejia said that what happened on Saturday morning will not change anything in his sermons. He said in a statement:

“It doesn’t change the convictions that are already embedded in my heart. I’m never going to stop, so burning down my building or blowing it up does absolutely nothing but make you look back in front of the community.”

As of this writing, it is still unclear who detonated the device or whether it is connected to the backlash the church has generated in the recent weeks. Chief Reynoso said in a statement:

“At this time, we don’t know the motive, the reasons for this violent attack. We do as if the public knows of who might have done this, what person or persons are responsible, that they please contact law enforcement.”

El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona said in a statement:

“As your mayor, I will always ensure that the City of El Monte continues to be an example of civility, respect, and inclusion of all people across the nation. We are a city that cares and protects all its residents and visitors. We respect and uphold the laws that protect each one of us, regardless of who we are.”

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