An Idaho man accused of burning a Pride flag and trying to kill two women won’t be charged with hate crimes despite his use of homophobic slurs during his alleged attack. He also allegedly threatened to kill LGBTQ people in YouTube videos he posted before his arrest.
Police in Boise, Idaho arrested 31-year-old Matthew Lehigh last Wednesday after he allegedly shouted a threat and a homophobic slur at two women who were standing next to their vehicle.
Lehigh then intentionally drove his car, aiming to hit the two women, the Boise Police said in a statement. The women ran as he allegedly rammed his car into their vehicle. It’s unclear whether the women identify as LGBTQ. Lehigh then fled the scene, police said. Officers found him and his car in a parking lot later that afternoon.
The man allegedly posted over 25 videos on a YouTube channel, many which included verbal attacks on the LGBTQ community. One included his pledge to kill a gay person, the East Idaho News reported.
“If I go to church and I find there’s a homosexual in there, I will fight them,” he said in one video. “I might fight them with a weapon, I might kill them in the church if that’s what that takes.”
Police believe Lehigh was involved in an October 8 incident in which he hit someone on the arm while using a homophobic slur. When a security guard followed him into the parking lot, Lehigh allegedly tried to ram his car into the guard. The guard reportedly jumped out of the way as the oncoming vehicle then fled the scene.
Lehigh now sits in the Ada County Jail, while police investigate his possible involvement in other crimes targeting the LGBTQ community.
Police suspect that Lehigh may be the vandal responsible for burning a gay couple’s Pride flag. The suspected vandal in that case covered the couple’s home security camera before setting their flag aflame. The blaze could have caught the couple’s house on fire, the couple said.
Officers said that Lehigh also admitted to stealing various Pride flags in Boise’s North End neighborhood and breaking a window at The Community Center, an LGBTQ advocacy space, East Idaho News added.
He has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one count of malicious injury to property associated with his alleged attack on the two women. He also faces an additional felony arson charge associated with the aforementioned flag burning. His bail was set for $1.5 million. He has a court hearing scheduled for October 26.
Because Idaho’s malicious harassment statute doesn’t cover sexual orientation or gender identity, Lehigh will not be given with state hate crime charges.
It’s been a rough year for LGBTQ Boise residents. about 35 Pride flags in the city have been vandalized or stolen this year alone. Boise Pride was also forced to cancel a “Drag Kids” event after organizers received death threats.