An Idaho man in jail for allegedly yelling homophobic slurs as he attempted to run over two women with his car is now facing an additional felony arson charge as well, but Idaho law prevents filing hate charges against the man.
Matthew Lehigh, 31, was arrested last Wednesday and charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one count of malicious injury to property. He now faces an additional felony arson charge after he allegedly admitted to police he had committed multiple crimes against the LGBTQ+ community in Boise, including burning of Pride flags and vandalism to The Community Center, an LGBTQ+ safe space.
In a press release announcing his initial arrest, police claimed Lehigh directed a threat and a homophobic slur at two women before attempting to hit them with his car.
"The women were standing next to their vehicle when the suspect intentionally drove his car at them, the women quickly moved out of the way and the suspect's vehicle struck the victim's vehicle," Boise Police said in a statement.
"He has behavior that is increasingly agitated, increasingly aggressive and culminated in the events that led to his arrest," Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Michael Guy said during Lehigh's arraignment last Friday. Guy also said Lehigh admitted to an anti-LGBTQ+ crime wave of Pride flag thefts and vandalism in the North End, a neighborhood known for its progressive politics in a state that is largely conservative
According to a report in the East Idaho News, police said this was also not the first incident where Lehigh allegedly yelled homophobic slurs and drove his car at people. Police are currently investigating other incidents and may file additional charges in the future.
Lehigh now faces a felony arson for allegedly burning a Pride flag of a gay married couple in Boise's North End. The flag was burned on October 4 at the home of John Michael Schert and Brett Perry. While the couple had experienced previous acts of vandalism to their Pride flag, this was the first time they filed a police report.
"We reported this incident because burning feels like so much of an escalation," Schert told the Statesman. "It's quite dangerous, and our house could have caught on fire. This feels much more hateful -- someone knowing how to cover your camera and then defacing your flag on your property. That feels aggressive and it feels scary because they knew what they were doing."
Despite the animus and hate directed at the LGBTQ+ community, no hate crime charges will be filed against Lehigh as the state's malicious harassment law only considers "race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin" as covered by the law.