Port Bolivar – Suspicions are mounting in the double murder of a Texas Lesbian couple whose bodies were discovered by a dumpster in Port Bolivar. KHOU Houston reports that the corpses of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found dumped beside a trash dumpster outside of Fisherman’s Cove store by a beer deliveryman taking out garbage early on March 7. Galveston Sheriff’s Department officials say that the young women were in a romantic relationship. Details of the murders remain scarce, but officials have said that each of the victims was killed in a different way, and that the lack of blood at the scene suggests they were murdered at another location, after which their bodies were taken to the dumpster site.
KTRK Eyewitness News says that the young lesbians who lived with their great grandmother had gone to Galveston for Mardi Gras. Jackson, who is described by her relatives as loving her partner Cosby, leaves behind a five year old daughter. The child considered Cosby and Jackson as her parents. The families of both women are desperate for answers. They are pleading for informers to come forward and give authorities leads as to who killed their loved ones. McDade Cosby, Britney’s sister, begged the public via KTRK, “Just come forward, just to give us closure as a family. Just come forward, ’cause we need closure at this point.” Crystal’s sister, Lequita Jackson, sobbed as she decried the murder, “What did they do to you to kill my sister? You beat my sister up and you just, you messed her up to the point she can’t breath no more.”
Police are searching for Britney Cosby’s 2006 Silver Kia Sorrento that appears to have been stolen. Authorities believe whoever took the vehicle may be the key to this grisly double murder. In an update on the case, a police sketch of a prime suspect in the murders has been released to the press.
The quiet beach town is rattled and on edge from the news of the murders. Residents say they do not feel safe. “Unbelievable, it’s scary,” Nancy Palley, a Port Bolivar citizen, said to Huffington Post. “You know, I told my husband we are making sure to lock our doors today. I’m not coming home to find someone in my house.” Though an explicit statement that these killings are an anti-gay hate crime, that possibility looms large in the minds of the public and law enforcement. This case recalls the double shooting of two lesbians in Portland, Texas, a Corpus Christi area town, in 2012. Mollie Olgin, 19, was found dead at the scene of a gunshot wound, and her partner, Mary Christine Chapa, 18, was grievously wounded but survived. No one has been arrested in the Portland murders.
San Diego, California – A gay man who was brutally beaten with a ball bat across the face in the Hillcrest Neighborhood of San Diego used to feel gay people were safe in San Diego. No more. Dwayne Wynn, walking along the sidewalk at midnight Monday was targeted for being gay by three men who pulled up behind him in a truck and ambushed him with a ball bat, crushing his eye socket and smashing his ribs. 10News.com interviewed a tearful Wynn in his home, still obviously shaken by his ordeal. Wynn told News10 that he heard an anti-gay slur shouted behind him, and then was struck full in the face with the bat. “The last thing I see is a baseball bat being swapped right across the face,” he said. “I was laying there,” said Wynn. “I was covered in blood and I could hear them literally high fiving each other as they’re walking to their truck.” It all happened so quickly that Wynn could not get an accurate description of the men who assaulted him or the vehicle they were driving. “I thought I was dead,” he said, trembling from emotion. “I’ve never been that scared in my entire life. I literally thought I was going to die. I thought they were going to kill me. They were beating me that bad.”
The spree nature of the attack in the heart of Hillcrest, the San Diego neighborhood noted for “tolerance and acceptance” sends a wake up call to the residents of the large, active LGBTQ community there, reminding them that diversity is not the same thing as equality. “They just didn’t stop and they thought it was a game,” Wynn said, according to EDGE. “They thought it was fun.”
Unfinished Lives author, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, commented that major metropolitan LGBTQ communities have been lulled into a sense of complacency by recent news of marriage equality victories throughout the nation. “Cities like San Diego pride themselves in diversity and tolerance,” Sprinkle said, “but that doesn’t mean queer folk are safe anywhere they live. Just because you live in a bubble, you do not live in a culture that accepts and defends your right to exist and be secure from harm.” Sprinkle, an LGBTQ hate crimes expert, noted that a prominent gay bookstore in Hillcrest was contacted to host a book signing and discussion on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes for the upcoming Martin Luther King Weekend, but the store management declined since the issue did not seem pressing. “Now, with this gruesome crime in the heart of the ‘gayborhood,’ perhaps anti-gay hate crimes are a bit more real in San Diego,” Sprinkle observed. “We are thankful complacency has not cost anyone his or her life there,” he said.
The Hillcrest neighborhood, just north of famous Balboa Park, hosts the largest civic celebration in San Diego each year, the Pride Festival, drawing thousands. Dwayne Wynn used to feel safe and secure in his neighborhood. Now, he and many others do not, due to a group of homophobic men who are still at large, hunting down gay men.
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.
Seattle, Washington – A 37-year-old gay man was attacked early Monday morning by a gang of women and men who yelled anti-gay slurs as they ran him down in the gay-friendly Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. KOMO News 4 reports that police are calling the attack a bias-driven hate crime.
Jason Jacobs told reporters and the Seattle Police Department that he was walking down the street in his own neighborhood a bit past midnight on Monday when two women and three men called out slurs about his sexual orientation, chased him down, and assaulted him with fists and kicks until he lay unconscious with a fractured eye socket, a broken nose, a major concussion, and two cracked ribs. Jacobs says he did not get a good look at his assailants, but knows other witnesses did–if they will only come forward. The attack took place in front of a Starbucks Coffee Shop, but only one witness has come forward to file a report with the SPD. Jacobs’ cries for help drew the witness to respond out of a feeling that, if he were subjected to such an attack, he would want someone to reach out to him. The witness stayed with Jacobs until an ambulance arrived to transport him to a local hospital.
Jacobs says that his pink shirt and shoes may have first attracted the attention of the gang of women and men, the Huffington Post reports. “Hopefully somebody saw something,” Jacobs told KIRO News. “Hopefully we can get some justice.” On Tuesday, he returned to the scene of his attack, seeking to encourage others to come forward and help police with the investigation. Looking at the stains of his own blood still on the sidewalk, Jacobs says that he has lost the feeling of safety and security he once had in the Capitol Hill area.
Seattle Police have assigned this case to their bias crimes division. In their report, investigators describe the three men suspected of the crime as being in their 20s and of “unknown race,” while the two women were described as “Hispanics” with dark hair. As of this writing, no arrests have been made.
Reportage on the attack has been careful to note that how Diego identifies in terms of gender identity and gender expression is not known. His sisters Virginia and Melissa have used both male and female pronouns to describe Diego, which reflects family practice, but not necessarily Diego’s own sense of personhood. Photographs show a graceful, lovely person with a sense of style and taste. Sister Virginia Diego said to reporters, “Sometimes men try to talk to him and they get humiliated in front of their friends when they realize it’s a man. Because he looks really good, he looks like a woman, you couldn’t tell the difference,” she continued. Sister Melissa Diego said that the Los Angeles Police Department, Hollywood Division is pursing the case as a transphobic hate crime. “We don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” she said. We just want somebody to come forward and let us know what they saw. He deserves justice.” Diego is recuperating at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Update: GLAAD reports that the victim has informed the LAPD of her preferred name and pronominal usage. In contradistinction to her family’s identification of her gender, the victim wishes to be known by “Vivian,” and indicated that she wants police and the media to use feminine pronouns when referring to her.
Fox News Latino reports that Hollywood’s Beso Restaurant where young Diego works is owned by actress Eva Longoria, famed for her roles on The Young and the Restless, and Desperate Housewives. The film and television star has not issued a statement in relation to the attack.
As the manhunt for Vivian Diego’s attackers continues, we are left to speculate about the rising number of anti-gay, anti-lesbian, and transphobic bias attacks reported recently, especially in New York City where the incidents of hate crimes is spiking to record highs as LGBT Pride celebrations kick off in the Big Apple. Is this hate crime attack against a gay and transgender person connected in some copycat way to the wave of East Coast brutalities? Some pundits suggest that the recent emphasis on the high profile human rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the increasing number of states making marriage equality legal for their residents may be igniting hostility among the opponents of LGBTQ rights in America.
For now, Vivian Diego has more immediate problems: facing surgery and how to pay for it, recuperating from the shattering physical and mental experience of being attacked for who she is–a crime unthinkable among fair minded people, but brutally frequent in the swirling emotions surrounding the expansion of human rights in the United States.
Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence
Brooklyn, New York – Since Sunday of last week, there have been two anti-gay bias attacks reported in Brooklyn, and another hate crime assault in Queens, according to various news sources. On Wednesday night, openly gay Kevin Kiadii, a 25-year-old freelance makeup artist and a male friend were assaulted in Prospect Park, CBS 2 reports. Kiadii, notable for lodging a sexual misconduct suit against ex-Elmo voice artist, Kevin Clash (see NewsOne story), was randomly chosen for harassment and assault by a group of five teens who were allegedly drunk and/or high. When the most aggressive of the teenagers, the one also displaying the most intoxication, confronted Kiadii with homophobic slurs, the gay man offered the youth a soda as an attempt to diffuse the situation. Undeterred, the assailant took a “fighting stance,” in Kiadii’s words, and when Kiadii told him to back off, the youth jumped at Kiadii and said “‘I’m going to [expletive] you up’ and do this and ‘you F and [expletive].’” Kiadii took a perfume bottle from his bag and wielded it like a can of pepper spray to back off his attackers. “One of the dudes tried to kick me in the face, but just missed and he got me in my shoulder,” Kiadii said. Kiadii managed to get off a 911 call to police, handed his phone to a bystander, and wrestled with his main attacker, who left Kiadii with an injured hand, cuts and bruises. Speaking to the New York Post, Kiadii said his ploy with the spray bottle of perfume may have prevented something much worse from happening to him. “If it wasn’t for my Dior bottle, I’d be in so much damage,” he said.
The police responded quickly, arresting four youths ranged in age from 13 to 18 years of age, and a fifth suspect who is 21. Charges have been filed against the teens and the 21-year-old for harassment as a hate crime, and the prime assailant faces charges of aggravated assault as a hate crime, according to The Advocate. Expressing his appreciation for the swift action of the police, Kiadii is thankful that he was not more seriously hurt. Still, the assault has left him shaken but determined to broadcast what he had to face, so that others will not have to endure an anti-gay attack like his. “I’m appalled. I’m in awe,” Kiadii told CBS 2. “I just really want my story told because I know there a lot of people in the city who deal with stuff like this.”
Police are also searching for an unidentified Brooklyn suspect who punched a 27-year-old gay man twice in the face on the J Train at approximately 11:45 p.m. last Sunday, May 26. The assailant hurled anti-gay slurs at his victim as he carried out the attack, according to DNAinfo. The suspect fled out the back of the subway car to escape arrest. Police described the suspect as a man in his mid-to-late-20s, 6 feet tall, with dark hair tied in a bun. He was last seen wearing a blue denim jacket, police said. The New York Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force is carrying out the investigation. The subway assault and investigation were announced by the New York Police Department on Friday of this week. Also reported this week was an earlier bias-related attack upon a woman in Queens on March 17 of this year. Police say that the suspect approached a 49-year-old woman, cursed her with homophobic epithets, and punched her in the face before fleeing the scene. He is described as between the ages of 20 and 25, five feet four inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. At the time of the assault, the attacker was wearing a small mustache. The suspect reportedly has been sighted in the area of the 115th Police Precinct. No explanation has been given for the lateness of the report on the Queens attack as of this report.
Anti-gay violence is spiking alarmingly throughout New York City. Better than 30 incidents of anti-LGBT hate crimes have been reported this year, one of them a fatal shooting, easily doubling last year’s statistics for anti-gay attacks during the same time period.