A Gurnee-area man is charged with a felony hate crime and misdemeanor assault after he attacked and berated a motorcyclist who was displaying a Mexican flag, authorities said Thursday.
Joseph L. Zens, 67, of the 37100 block of North Shirley Drive, is accused of attacking the 57-year-old Hispanic motorcyclist with an ice pick while hurling racial slurs at him at telling him “to go back to his country,” according to Lake County Sheriff’s police.
The altercation began just before noon Wednesday near the intersection of North Delany Road and Sunset Avenue. Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Covelli said the motorcyclist was driving north on Delany when a 2009 Hyundai SUV “abruptly changed lanes, cutting off the motorcycle driver.”
The motorcyclist told investigators he followed the car to obtain the license plate number. Zens pulled his car onto West Meyers Road, where he stopped and got out of the car to confront the motorcyclist.
Covelli said Zens began yelling “anti-Mexican racial slurs” and “expletives” at the motorcyclist, then went back to his car and retrieved an ice pick and began threatening the motorcyclist. The motorcyclist was able to get away before being struck and called police.
Zens drove off and was later located at his home by sheriff’s deputies. Deputies recovered an ice pick from Zens’ SUV. He was taken into custody without incident, Covelli said.
“Hate has absolutely no place in Lake County,” Sheriff John Idleburg said. “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.”
Zens is being held in the Lake County jail on $15,000 bail. He has no criminal record in Lake County, according to the court clerk’s website. He was charged with misdemeanor battery causing bodily harm in McHenry County in 1997, but the case was dismissed.
Zens faces three years in prison if convicted of the hate crime. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum jail sentence of one year. His next court date is Aug. 28.