PANGUITCH, Utah, July 13, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah’s Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and a 19-year-old woman charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct are making international headlines after the woman’s misdemeanor charges were upgraded to a “hate crime” because she allegedly stepped on a pro-police sign, then tossed it in the trash.
According to a story featured in the Daily Beast, Lauren Nichole Gibson, 19, was with a group of friends July 7 as they were returning to California from a camping trip to southern Utah. One the drivers was pulled over for speeding in Panguitch, where a traffic stop was being conducted at the Rally Stop gas station.
“As I concluded my traffic stop and released the individuals I observed some of the individuals’ friends approach them and attempt to console them,” according to a probable cause statement filed by a Garfield County Sheriff’s deputy.
“I observed one of the friends, later identified to be Lauren Gibson, stomping on a ‘Back the Blue’ sign next to where the traffic stop was conducted, crumble it up in a destructive manner and throw it into a trash can all while smirking in an intimidating manner towards me.”
The officer paused.
“I got out of my vehicle and confronted Gibson, asking where she had acquired the sign from. Gibson stated it was her mother’s sign and she could do what she wanted with it. I asked Gibson where her mother lived and she stated California. I stated to Gibson that our Sheriff’s Office produced those specific signs and that I believed she had acquired it in our community.
“Deputy Syrett sat with Gibson while I entered the Rally Stop to check to see if it had been their sign Gibson destroyed, they stated it was not.”
The officer returned to Gibson.
“I read Gibson her Miranda Rights in which she agreed to speak with me. I began asking Gibson again where she acquired the sign. Gibson gave inconsistent stories, and eventually changing her story to, she had found it on the ground. Due to Gibson destroying property that did not belong to her in a manner to attempt to intimidate law enforcement, I placed her under arrest and Deputy Syrett and I transported her to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office to be booked into jail. The ‘Back the Blue’ sign was retrieved and booked into evidence.”
Gibson was charged with criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor, and disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor.
The officer’s statement continues:
“Due to the demeanor displayed by Gibson in attempts to intimidate law enforcement while destroying a ‘Pro Law Enforcement’ sign the allegations are being treated as a ‘Hate Crime’ enhanced allegation.”
The Daily Beast, a digital news outlet with a reported million readers each day, interviewed Gibson. She said she stepped on the police sign in an attempt to comfort the friend who was upset she had been stopped for speeding.
“I just wanted to, I don’t know, make her feel better or something or stand up for her,” the article quotes Gibson as saying.
“I don’t feel like I did anything wrong,” Gibson reportedly told the outlet, adding that she does not believe her actions justify the same punishment hate-crime sentences as those given for those who commit violent attacks based on racial or religious prejudice.
“If it was a dentist’s sign or something and I just crushed a dentist sign or something in front of them, like, nothing would have happened,” Gibson said, as quoted by the outlet. “It’s the same thing. it’s just an occupation.”
Gibson was held in jail overnight, and has not yet entered a plea in the case, she reportedly said.
The Daily Beast also wrote that the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to its interview requests.