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Gurnee man charged with hate crime after attacking Hispanic man with ice pick, yelling racial slurs

Joseph L Zens, 67, of Gurnee.

A Gurnee man has been charged with a hate crime after police say he tried attacking a Hispanic man, who was riding a motorcycle with a Mexican flag, with an ice pick while yelling racial slurs at him.

Joseph L Zens, 67, of the 37100 block of North Shirley Drive in unincorporated Gurnee, was charged with felony hate crime and misdemeanor aggravated assault.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to a 911 call from the victim around 11:35 a.m. Wednesday.

The 57-year-old Gurnee man was driving on his motorcycle northbound on Delany Road near Sunset Avenue in unincorporated Gurnee.

The victim, who is Hispanic and was displaying the Mexican flag on his motorcycle, was cut-off by a 2009 Hyundai SUV when it abruptly changed lanes, Lake County Sheriff Spokesman Sgt. Christopher Covelli said.

The motorcyclist tried to get the license plate and vehicle description of the Hyundai, as the driver, later identified as Zens, pulled onto Meyer Road where he stopped and exited his vehicle.

“Zens began yelling anti-Mexican racial slurs/expletives at the victim and told him to go back to his country. Zens then retrieved an ice pick from his vehicle and began chasing the victim with it, continuing to yell racial slurs and racial expletives,” Covelli said.

The victim was able to get onto his motorcycle and move away before being struck with the ice pick, Covelli added.

Police spoke with Zens at his residence and located an ice pick in his car. He was arrested without incident and transported to the Lake County Jail.

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim approved the charges against Zens. If found guilty at trial, Zens could be sentenced up to four years in the Illinois Department of Corrections on both charges.

“This type of hateful conduct will never be tolerated in Lake County,” Nerheim said.

“Hate has absolutely no place in Lake County. Being victimized because of the color of one’s skin, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, or any other protected classification is completely unacceptable. We will always be there to stand up for the victims of crime,” Sheriff John Idleburg said.

Zens remains held in the Lake County Jail on $15,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court on August 28.


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