Lincoln, Nebraska – Two lesbians were attacked Thursday by a man wielding a crowbar for supposedly shaming his family. When the attack failed, he and his friend rammed the women’s car with a pickup truck, attempting to push the women’s vehicle into oncoming traffic. KLKN TV reports that Ahmed Tuma and his accomplice, Nathan Marks, both 20 years of age, took offense when Tuma’s sister announced she was a lesbian, and became engaged to her fiancée. Tuma allegedly believed his sister’s relationship with a woman shamed his family, enraging him to the point he enlisted Marks to accompany him on an ambush. Prior to the attack, Tuma had made death threats against his sister. Lincoln Police Department spokesperson Officer Katie Flood confirmed, “They were in fear for their lives, he had made some verbal threats to kill the sister.”
Gay Star News says that the lesbians had pulled their car near their home, and had just gotten out to enter the house at approximately 5 p.m. on Thursday when Tuma rushed them, brandishing a crowbar. The women escaped back to the safety of their car just as the brother swung the weapon. They frantically tried to start the car as Tuma hit the vehicle’s windows repeatedly, trying to smash them out. When the lesbians succeeded in starting their car, Tuma rushed back to Marks’s pickup, and the two men rammed their victims’ auto in an apparent attempt to push it into the traffic speeding by. The couple was able to get away from their assailants, and called police.
Police arrested Tuma for attempted 2nd degree assault, criminal mischief, two counts of terroristic threats and use of a weapon to commit a felony. All of the charges except use of a weapon carry a hate crime enhancement. Marks was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting a terroristic threat, and aiding and abetting the use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. Both men have been arraigned, and will stand trial for the hate crimes in a Lincoln court.
Oakland, California – An 18-year-old teen who identifies as “non-binary” or “gender-neutral” was set on fire Monday evening as he slept soundly in the rear of an AC Transit bus. Luke “Sasha” Fleischman, a popular student at Berkeley’s Maybeck High School, suffered second and third degree burns on his legs when a 16-year-old assailant set a skirt Fleischman was wearing alight. Passengers on board the bus aided Fleischman in extinguishing the stubborn flames. The attacker, Richard Thomas, who was arrested Tuesday on the campus of Oakland High School, now admits that his feelings of homophobia led him to try and burn the sleeping teen alive.
NBC Bay Area News reports that anger at the attacker and compassion for Fleischman emerged quickly as news of the attack spread throughout the East Bay area. Fleischman, whose mother told the Bay Area Newsgroup that her child felt comfortable wearing female-identified clothing such as a skirt, has long understood himself to be gender neutral. “My son considers himself agender,” Debbie Fleischman said. “He likes to wear a skirt. It’s his statement. That’s how he feels comfortable dressing.” The teenager’s cousin, 25-year-old Tara Young, a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, said “I don’t care what he was wearing, You don’t light someone on fire.”
Rushed to the Burn Center at San Francisco’s St. Francis Memorial Hospital, Fleischman underwent surgery on his legs Wednesday. Donations have poured in to help defray the cost of his medical care, topping $20,000 in a matter of hours. Hospital officials confirmed that the teenager will need to undergo painful skin grafts and “several surgeries.”
Meanwhile, his attacker, 16-year-old Richard Thomas, who had been arrested and initially charged with assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem, is now being fully charged for each count as a bias-motivated hate crime after admitting his intense homophobic feelings motivated him to set his victim’s clothing on fire. KQED News reports that Alameda County law enforcement officials, who acknowledge the attack on Fleischman was motivated by anti-queer hatred, are charging Thomas as an adult. The Oakland Tribune interviewed lead Police Investigator in the case, Anwawm Jones, who confirmed, “During (the) suspect interview, the suspect stated he did it because he was homophobic.” Oakland District Attorney Nancy O’Malley told The Tribune that Thomas’s “violent and senseless criminal conduct resulted in severe and traumatic injuries to a young and entirely innocent victim,” and went on to say, “The intentional and callous nature of the crime is shocking and will not be tolerated in our community. Our thoughts remain with the victim and the victim’s family in wishing for a full recovery from the extensive burns suffered as a result of this crime.”
Felony aggravated assault carries a possible life sentence with a possibility of parole, the assault charge has a maximum penalty of eight years in prison, and each count of hate crime enhancement adds a year in prison, according to the Alameda District Attorney’s Office.
“Sasha” Fleischman represents an emerging group of youth who do not fit into the male/female binary, some of whom consider themselves gender-neutral, agender, or genderqueer. According to his parents, Sasha came out as agender two years ago, and became politically active in order to carve out a place in American consciousness for youth like himself. He gathered over 27,000 signatures on a petition with which he attempt to draw President Obama’s attention to the issue, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.
The Advocate reports that the gay men were beaten, dragged by their hair, and threatened with a knife. Malone, who lost a tooth in the attack, said one of the assailants slashed at his stomach and his head with a knife, intending to stab him. ”He swung it at my stomach and then swung it back up at my face,” Malone said. In a defensive move, Malone kicked off the stiletto heels he was wearing, and used them to back the attackers off.
In their interview with KATU, the three men vividly recalled the chaos and fear they felt as their assailants pressed their assault:
“I was on the ground and they reached over and punched him in the face.”
“All I saw was blood all over his mouth.”
“I was in shock. I felt my tooth go into my tongue and I spit it out onto the ground.”
“All I remember is hearing somebody yell there was a knife.”
“He swung it at my stomach and then swung it back up at my face.”
A passing cyclist aided the victims, and the gang of attackers ran from the scene, leaving the trio scarred, bruised, and shaken, but thankful they were not injured more seriously from the sudden, savage assault. Hundreds from the community have responded with messages of support and comfort to the victims, and have donated money to help with medical expenses. In one overwhelming expression of generosity, a local dentist replaced Malone’s broken tooth with a temporary replacement, and pledged to complete the permanent dental replacement later.
Hughes, Malone, and Miller reported the attack as an anti-gay hate crime, but they are not optimistic about anyone being apprehended and charged in the case. They understand that their costumes were provocative, and that some might not appreciate their taste, but they never imagined that irrational hatred could turn the evening so brutal. All three gay men are clear, however, that nothing they did provoked the attack, and they are determined to remain strong and proud in their gender presentations and identities. As Malone told EDGE Boston, they are not going to let this experience change who they are, “Not even for a second.”
Omaha, Nebraska – A straight friend of two gays stepped up to defend them from harassment by three belligerent men, and received a thrashing for it. Refusing to retaliate, Ryan Langenegger stood his ground, battered and bloody, and asked his assailants the one question all fearful, homophobic people should have to answer: “Why?”
KMTV Action News 3 reports that Langenegger, who self-identifies as heterosexual, and his out gay friends, Josh Foo and Jacob Gellinger, had dropped into Omaha’s popular Old Market late Saturday night to grab a bite to eat at PepperJax Grill when the three alleged homophobes approached their table. Gellinger who was wearing a dress that evening was the initial target of the most vocal of the men, who called him “disgusting” and the others “faggots.” Attempting to avoid a confrontation, Gellinger, Foo, and Langenegger left the grill, but their three harassers followed them outside and intensified their name-calling. According to Huffington Post, Langenegger stepped between the belligerents and his friends, saying that they should just leave the gay men alone. One of the verbal assailants then punched Langenegger so hard it chipped two of his teeth, deeply gashed his brow between his eyes, and left his face a bloody wreck.
Josh Foo wrote up his own account of what happened on his Facebook page, expressing appreciation for the courage of his straight friend. Referring to a photo of Langenegger taken soon after the assault, Foo posted: “This photo was taken soon after Ryan stood up for my friend and I after being called ‘faggots’,'disgusting’, etc. by a group of men at a restaurant who then followed us outside. We did not provoke this in anyway and also did not retaliate after the assault. Ryan, after being hit, paused and looked at the men and asked ‘Why’? which was the question we were all wondering since we did not do anything wrong besides be ourselves. What Ryan did meant a lot to me and I thank him for standing up for his friends and accepting them for who they are in everyway. He’s a great friend. The world needs more people like him.”
In an interview with KMTV 3, Langenegger called the entire incident “sad, very sad,” going on the say that he sees this sort of harassment against gay people all the time in Omaha. Asked if he thought standing up for his friends was worth the beating he took, Langenegger said “yes!” with no hesitation, adding “It just makes no sense this day and age and in Omaha, for all of this stuff to still be happening and out in the streets.” He hopes that the news of this unprovoked attack will serve as a wake-up call to the LGBTQ community.
Meanwhile, authorities are seeking leads in the case. In the face of unreasoning hatred, Ryan Langenegger’s one-word question demands an answer on behalf of us all: “Why?” May Mr. Langenegger’s tribe increase everywhere, until homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia have vanished from among us.
Laramie, Wyoming – Fifteen years ago today, Matthew Wayne Shepard took his fatal ride with two young men from the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, and suffered the savage attack that changed the world–for LGBTQ people, for sure, since the issue of LGBTQ hate crimes murder would never be seen in the same way again–but most of all for his family, who have been embroiled in a struggle over the story of their elder son’s life and death. From the very beginning, powerful people saw Matt’s story as something they HAD to control. Anti-gay forces have consistently deployed journalists with an agenda: remove “hate crime” from the Matt Shepard story. Today’s popular revision of the motives for Matt’s murder is making sensational news, but it is actually part of a right wing cottage industry seeking to rewrite a history all the major law enforcement investigators are agreed about–Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay.
In 2011, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, who visited Laramie personally to investigate the claims for himself, wrote a chapter about the determined effort to rewrite Matthew Shepard’s story, and excise the issue of anti-gay hate crime from it. Entitled “The Second Death of Matthew Shepard,” Sprinkle details how revisionists during the trial of Aaron McKinney, and later in the infamous creation of the muckraking 20/20 “special” (in which current revisionist Stephen Jimenez played a significant role as a re-writer), continue to attempt an undercut of the most effectively reported anti-gay hate crime murder in history.
Responding to this latest wave of revisionism seeking to warp the story of Matt’s death, the Matthew Shepard Foundation issued this rebuttal, reported in the New York Daily News. We at Unfinished Lives Blog could not agree more: “Attempts now to rewrite the story of this hate crime appear to be based on untrustworthy sources, factual errors, rumors and innuendo rather than the actual evidence gathered by law enforcement and presented in a court of law.” ~ Matthew Shepard Foundation statement
As a tribute to Matthew Shepard and his courageous family, Judy and Dennis, his parents, and Logan, his brother, Unfinishedlivesblog.com shares this excerpt setting up the argument of Sprinkle’s thesis: that nothing can change the exhaustively investigated findings of the case. Matt Shepard died because of unreasoning hatred, heterosexism and homophobia. The full chapter can be read in Sprinkle’s award winning book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011).
Murdering Matt’s Story
”Revisionists are getting away with murder, working to change the subject of Matthew Shepard and alter the impact of his story for LGBT Americans. It is not just that they are trying to shift the conversation to something more palatable to the cheerful, “Good Morning, America” attitude so prevalent in this country. Another sort of murder is afoot. The revisionists are working to change how Matt is remembered—to revise his story into the image and likeness of what queer folk are to them: people of bad character, the sort of anti-saints whom Judy Shepard suggested face suspicion and revulsion. In science, if the epitome of a whole species is found to exist in a particular specimen, then that individual becomes the “holotype” for all that follow it. All other specimens are compared to the original that set the standard. Weaken the holotype, distort it, and you inevitably revise the meaning of everything else in its class.
“The public outcry at Matt’s cold-blooded killing meant the hate crime that cut his young life short became the holotype in the American psyche for all instances of oppression against people in the sexual minority. It also sent a chill into the bones of the religio-political Right Wing. Power to enact protection statutes for LGBT people coalesced around Matt’s death so swiftly that the Wingers feared anti-LGBT hate crime legislation might actually become law. Their strategy was to kill the story, or failing that, change the narrative. Cut the power of moral outrage out from under Matt’s murder, they reasoned, and they would blunt the mounting public sentiment for an end to anti-LGBT oppression.
“Since Matt’s story looms larger than any other account of anti-LGBT hate murder, attempts to discredit Matt and lessen the moral impact of his death are archetypal, as well. The first attempt to kill the story and change the subject was made public during the trials of Henderson and McKinney. With the death penalty staring down at them, they swore they had never intended to kill Matt—just rob him. Henderson and McKinney and their attorneys entered the primal homophobic defense ploy into the public record: Matt was actually responsible for his own murder. He hit on them in the pickup truck, making sexual advances. His abductors panicked, assaulted him without mercy, got on with their thefts, including his wallet, credit card and shoes, drove him for miles and tied him up in the remote Sherman Hills area east of Laramie, leaving him to die in near-freezing temperatures—wouldn’t anybody, in their situation?
“As absurd as it sounds, the ‘gay panic’ defense is a homophobic classic, and as the Matthew Shepard case shows, it can rise to dizzying heights of absurdity. In order for it to work, either in a court of law or in the court of public opinion, the gay panic defense must feed off of the irrational fear of homosexual latency, especially in males. Its fabricators bet that men are so terrified and insecure about their masculinity that making a charge of sexual aggression against a Gay hate crime victim will infect the prosecution’s account of the facts just enough to skew a verdict. It puts the victim on trial instead of the perpetrators.”
End of excerpt
Rest in peace, Matt. Your story does not belong to the revisionists. We who believe in Justice cannot rest…we who believe in Justice cannot rest until it comes.
Brooklyn, New York – A straight resident of the Williamsburg section of greater New York City was viciously beaten by a man yelling homophobic slurs, adding to the alarming number of hate crime attacks in the Big Apple. David Jimenez, 40, who identifies as a heterosexual man, told reporters from the Brooklyn Paper that the assault seemed to come out of nowhere as he walked his two Boston Terriers back to his apartment at about 11:30 p.m. on September 25. Jimenez says he had just escorted a group of his friends to a cab. As he passed a group of men sitting on a stoop on South Third Street between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street, he said he heard slurs being hurled at him, which he tried to ignore as he continued down the street toward his home. The next thing he knew, a brutal punch struck him in the face out of nowhere. “Someone started screaming, ‘Hey you, faggot,” said Jimenez. “I turned around and gave him a look like, ‘What the hell?’ and the next thing I know the guy starts punching me in the face.”
Jimenez could not successfully defend himself as he struggled to hold onto the leashes of his dogs as blows rained down on him. The assailant, who remains unnamed as of this report except for his being a 35-year-old man, broke his victim’s nose in four places, bruised his jaw. blacked both his eyes, and shattered the bones in one of his eye sockets. The attack was bloody, leaving copious stains of blood on the sidewalk that remained there for days after the crime. Though Jimenez is a straight man, NY1 reports that authorities are now investigating the attack as a bias-motivated hate crime. A witness to the crime called police who found the attacker still at the scene soaked in his victim’s blood. Officers arrested the assailant, and charged him initially with assault and possession of a controlled substance, and resisting arrest. Jimenez, now recuperating at home in preparation for reconstructive surgery to his face, says the wounds he suffered go far beyond the physical ones on his body: “My head, it cannot comprehend how this is the case, where you literally catch someone with blood in their hands, because when he was taken in, his fist was full of blood, and he’s out here walking while I’m in here locked in my house because I’m afraid of going outside.”
As EDGE On The Net reports, the hate crime attack on Jimenez adds an alarming new dimension to the rising epidemic of violence against LGBT New Yorkers in recent months, since even heterosexual people who are merely mistaken for being gay are now being targeted. During the summer, two alleged anti-gay hate crimes were investigated in Williamsburg by police, and in Manhattan, a gay man was fatally shot to death in the Chelsea/Greenwich Village area of the city, one of the queer-friendliest sections of the Big Apple, and the cradle of the modern LGBTQ Rights Movement. Jimenez told CBS 2 New York that coping with the crime against him will be a longtime struggle. “That’s the most difficult part — waking up every morning and trying to live my life like normal,” he said.