Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence

Kevin Kiadii, 25, assaulted Wednesday in Brooklyn's Prospect Park for his sexual orientation.

Kevin Kiadii, 25, assaulted Wednesday in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for his sexual orientation.

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 sketches of Brooklyn subway gay basher and Queens suspect who attacked a woman while shouting anti-gay slurs.

Police sketches of Brooklyn subway gay basher (l) and Queens suspect (r) who attacked a woman while shouting anti-gay slurs.

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.

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Brooklyn, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, Queens, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Savage Anti-Gay Murder in NYC Highlights Increasing Danger for LGBT People

Mark Carson, 32, openly gay man shot to death in the face in NYC (Gay Star News photo).

Mark Carson, 32, openly gay NYC man fatally shot in the face (Gay Star News photo).

New York City, New York – A gay man shot to death at point blank range early Saturday morning became the fifth anti-gay hate crime to strike fear into Gotham City in recent weeks.  Mark Carson, 32, an openly gay yogurt shop worker from Brooklyn, who was walking with a companion in Greenwich Village, faced his harasser, who taunted his victim with homophobic slurs before fatally shooting him in the face, saying “You want to die here tonight?”.  The assailant was collared in a matter of a few blocks by a police officer who had the description of the shooter.  The officer seized the murder weapon along with the suspect.  Elliot Morales, 33, is in the custody of the NYPD, charged with second degree murder as a hate crime, and is being held in jail without bail.

After being goaded by a series of previous gay bashings in Midtown Manhattan in the Madison Square Garden area, some involving Knicks fans in full team attire, the LGBTQ and Allied community in the greater NYC metro area has erupted into angry, frightened protests.  The Associated Press reports that thousands took to the streets on Monday to cry out against Carson’s murder, making this the most powerful demonstration of anti-hate crime street activism since the days of Matthew Shepard, fourteen years ago. NYC Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, marched arm in arm with Edie Windsor, the key plaintiff in the case for Marriage Equality now before the Supreme Court of the United States.  Emotions on a spectrum from disbelief that such a brazen crime could occur in the City, through towering rage against the cold-blooded killing of a defenseless gay man in the heart of the most tolerant neighborhood in New York, to abject fear that the streets of the city are unsafe to walk openly for gay people.  Carson fell just blocks from the site of the birth of the Gay Rights Movement during the famous Stonewall Riots of 1969.

Morales, the alleged shooter, once charged with attempted murder in 1998, was filled with “homophobic glee,” laughing as he confessed to police that he pulled the trigger on Carson, according to the New York Daily News.   Morales was seen just 15 minutes before the attack, publicly urinating outside an upscale Greenwich Village restaurant beside the storied Stonewall Inn.  Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly candidly commented to the press that Carson had done nothing to antagonize his assailant, according to USA Today.  “It’s clear that the victim here was killed only because and just because he was thought to be gay,” Commissioner Kelly said.

The Daily News speculates that Morales’s homophobia had been ignited by the way Carson, a proud, out gay man, was dressed–in a tank top with cut off shorts and boots.  Prosecutors say that Morales shouted at Carson and his friend, “Hey, you faggots!  You look like gay wrestlers!”  According to his family, Carson was happy, well-adjusted, and loved the West Village where he met his death .  “He was a courageous person,” Carson’s brother, Michael Bumpars, said. “My brother was a beautiful person.”  

Makeshift shrine at the spot Mark Carson was shot to death in West Village.

Makeshift shrine at the spot Mark Carson was shot to death in West Village.

Naïve pundits have said that the increasing visibility and political success of LGBT people to gain mainstream acceptance have ushered in a new era of queer acceptance in American life.  Some have even declared the “victory” of the gay rights movement.  Such self-congratulations are premature.  Carson’s brazen murder by a totally unapologetic homophobe, coupled with the rash of LGBT youth suicides in schools across the nation, and reports of skyrocketing statistics of violence against transgender people of color, are giving the lie to the notion that the United States is safe for queer folk.  Some are now reversing their previous opinions, calling the violence evidence of a “backlash” against the recent success of Marriage Equality in New England, New York, the District of Columbia, and Minnesota.  Though New York State made same-sex marriage legal in 2011, NYC Police Commissioner Kelly revealed that though last year’s bias-crimes against LGBT people in the city numbered 13, the total now stands at 22 and counting.

June is Gay Pride Month in New York City.  Nerves are frayed.  Top city officials, politicians, and police top brass are scrambling to make this year’s celebration in Greenwich Village and around town safe.  New York City has earned the reputation of being the cradle of queer tolerance, and Mayor Bloomberg obviously wants to keep it that way.  Yet the violence in the streets of New York, now turned ominously fatal with Mark Carson’s grisly murder, may be a bellwether for things to come throughout the nation.  Morales, the alleged shooter, laughed and joked that he was proud to terrorize the LGBT community.  Foes of gay equality may be on the back foot because of the rapid acceptance of gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people, particularly by younger Americans.  But homophobic, irrational hatred, the sort that maims and kills, has by no means gone away.  Nor does this recent spate of violence suggest a “backlash.”  When 38 states have written homophobia into their constitutions, or bolstered anti-gay statutes, this outbreak of harm can hardly be seen as anything but good, old fashioned American bigotry.  The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) is closely monitoring events in New York and around the nation.  They advise non-confrontational efforts to diffuse potentially dire situations of violence.  Yet, the queer community has come too far to go back into the closet ever again.  To do so would dishonor the hopes, loves, and courage of openly gay men like Mark Carson.  Sharon Stapel, NCAVP’s executive director, said that these events must be understood in the context of a nation where basic equality is still denied to LGBT people. Her message to New York’s  gay community? “We want to give people tools that can de-escalate situations but also say, ‘You need to be yourself,’” Stapel said to ABC News. “We’re not telling people, ‘Take your rainbow sticker off.’”

May 21, 2013 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullying in schools, Christine Quinn, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Marriage Equality, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, New York City, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stonewall, Stonewall Inn, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cleveland Transgender Woman’s Body Found With Multiple Stab Wounds; Now 3 Trans Murders in April

Transgender woman Cemia Acoff, 20, stabbed to death and submerged in a pond west of Cleveland.

Transgender woman Cemia Acoff, 20, stabbed to death and submerged in a pond west of Cleveland.

Cleveland, Ohio – The badly decomposed body of a local transgender woman was found sunken in a pond on Wednesday, April 17.  The victim, Ms. Cemia Acoff, 20 years of age, also known as Ci Ci Dove by her friends, had been reported missing since March 27.  The pond, located in Olmstead Township west of Cleveland, was built to recycle runoff water from a once thriving greenhouse operation in the area.  Ms. Acoff’s body, riddled with stab wounds and naked from the waist down, was tied to a concrete block in order to weigh the corpse down to the bottom of the pond.  The Advocate reports that a resident of a close by apartment complex discovered the body, and notified police.  The coroner had to identify Ms. Acoff by testing her DNA, because of the state of the her remains.

Adding insult to the grief of family and friends, local news outlets heaped disrespect upon Ms. Acoff’s memory, sensationalizing her transition and employing a deeply insensitive reportage template to her story, referring to her as “a man in a dress,” a stock response of transphobic ignorance in situations like these.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Fox 8 were called to task by  GLAAD, faith leaders, and local LGBTQ advocates. For example, Fox 8 published a whole paragraph in their report demeaning Ms. Acoff’s character for having a police record, and describing the clothes found on her corpse.  The outcry against such negative coverage of the murder of a transgender woman caused both the Plain Dealer and Fox 8 to modify their previous stories, but GLAAD representative Aaron McQuade issued a statement to the press calling on both local news outlets to meet with GLAAD and members of the transgender community to learn what more they need to do to redress the damage they have already done to the memory of Ms. Acoff.  In part, McQuade stated: “The truth is, when someone like Cemia appears to identify as female sometimes and male other times, it’s because it’s still socially unacceptable (and often dangerous) to be transgender. The fact that some people in Acoff’s life didn’t know she sometimes identified as female, and the fact that her legal identification might not have reflected her gender identity, doesn’t change the fact that she was a transgender woman.”  

CemiaTransGriot points that the murder of Ms. Acoff is the third anti-transgender hate crime homicide of an African American transwoman reported in the month of April alone.  Besides Ms. Acoff, 29-year-old Kelly Young was shot to death in Baltimore on April 3, and 30-year-old  Ashley Sinclair of Orlando, Florida who was also found shot to death the next day, Thursday, April 4.  The murder of transwomen of color has reached alarming proportions throughout the nation in recent months–all the more reason to get the sad news of the loss of Cemia and her transgender sisters of color widely, sensitively, and accurately distributed throughout the media.  For a further report on the slow rolling decimation of the transgender population in the United States, see the landmark study, “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” which may be accessed in detail on the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force website.

As of this writing, Ms. Acoff’s killer or killers remain at large with no leads.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, Character assassination, Florida, gender identity/expression, GLAAD, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Maryland, Media Issues, Ohio, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Transgender Woman Shot to Death in Baltimore

Kelly Young, 29, shot to death in a possible transphobic hate crime.

Kelly Young, 29, shot to death in a possible transphobic hate crime.

East Baltimore, Maryland – A beloved member of the transgender community of Baltimore was found shot on the floor of her apartment this Wednesday morning.  Kelly Young, 29, died in transit to the hospital.

The murder remains unsolved.  Baltimore City Police are investigating, but say that it is too early yet to determine that this homicide was a hate crime, according to WJZ TV, CBS Baltimore.  Officials say that they will make the determination about the hate crime status of the case as evidence warrants.  “Internally, we’ll investigate any incident as a hate crime if there is any sort of physical evidence that indicates it’s a hate crime,”  said Sgt. Eric Kowalczyk, Baltimore City police. “She had a lot of friends and a lot of loved ones who really want to bring this case to closure.”  Matt Thorn, spokesperson from the GLBT Resource Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB), said that the police were following every lead, and that the murder of Ms. Young might very well prove to be a transphobic hate crime meant to send a message to the LGBT community.

Community outrage at the murder is running high, and some of her friends are concerned with their own safety.  Dondria Naieem, a friend of Ms. Young, said to CBS Baltimore, “I’m scared to walk by myself and hang with a lot of people so people don’t get me.  It’s really hard to cope with her death.”  Ms. Young was born near where she died, and was a well-known and well-loved entertainer who performed regularly at a local club.  She had the reputation of being an accomplished dancer.

On Thursday, her family and friends gathered to remember Ms. Young and give thanks for her life.  Her sister, Monique Mack, told WMAR TV, the local ABC affiliate“The neighborhood embraced her — boys and girls, straight or gay she was embraced.”  “It wasn’t always a smooth road but I will say it was more smooth than not.”  Her mother spoke of her gifts and qualities, as well: “Everybody accepted her. That’s why everybody is here because everybody accepted her.  She kept it real.” 

Everybody except the person or the persons who gunned down Kelly Young, that is.  Neighbors, family and friends are determined to get to the bottom of why a person so beloved could be killed so cruelly.  Tanya Eley, Ms. Young’s longtime friend, said, “God knows whatever happened to her, God has them; they’re going to regret whatever they did to her because she was loved.”

April 6, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Maryland, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transgender Murder in Cincinnati Part of Alarming National Trend

Kendall L. Hampton, 26, gender variant person killed by gunshots in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati, Ohio – A 26-year-old gender-nonconforming person was found shot to death late last Saturday night.  Transgender and anti-violence advocates are drawing attention to the brutal murder of Kendall L. Hampton as they highlight the alarming increase in transgender and gender non-conforming violence in the country, especially against people of color.

Your Black World says that the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) has identified nine gender non-conforming or transgender homicides this year so far.  Of the 30 documented murders of LGBTQ people registered by the NCAVP, 87% are either transgender or gender variant people of color.

WXIX TV 19 reports that Hampton, an alleged sex worker, was found fatally shot in a parking lot between a McDonald’s fast food restaurant and a Dairy Mart.  He was transported to nearby University Hospital where he was pronounced dead later that night. Police say that Hampton was shot twice by an unknown assailant.

The NCAVP and the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization are calling on lawmakers and law enforcement officials to investigate Hampton’s murder for signs of gender, race, and sexual orientation bias.  An increasing chorus of advocates and everyday citizens is calling for better enforcement of hate crimes statutes, especially the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama in October of 2009.  Social Justice activists note that since increased publicity has been focused on LGBTQ people since the Shepard Act became law, the rate of violence has increased each year. Some are calling for the passage of tougher anti-queer legislation to protect the vulnerable LGBTQ community.

Often news reports of prostitution are published by the media in gender variant homicide cases, not because gender non-conforming people are apt to be sex workers, but rather because the sensational titillation associated with the murder of prostitutes sells more copy.  The effect of such reports is to downplay the public’s sympathy for the victim, and to lessen the impact of the news of a murder on a wider readership or listening audience. It is a sometimes no-so-subtle means of blaming the victim for his own demise. Whether Kendall Hampton was actively working in the sex industry is beside the point.  He was a human being of worth, perceived to be different enough that someone acted out of hatred and killed him.  Whether the killer gets to own the story of his victim’s death will be up to a more informed public, and a media establishment less interested in sensationalism and more intent on stopping violence against Americans.

August 27, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, gender identity/expression, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, Ohio, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

President Obama Calls for Prayer, Solidarity, and Justice in Wake of Aurora Massacre

“We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.”  ~ President Barack Obama

We at the Unfinished Lives Project join with Americans everywhere in support and solidarity for the families and loved ones of the fallen in Aurora, Colorado.

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Colorado, Condolences, gun violence, President Barack Obama, Vigils | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teen Lesbian Latina Released From Hospital Care After Head Shot

Mary “Kristene” Chapa behind the wheel of her car. Released after three weeks in intensive care since a possible hate crime shooting, she assisted police in sketching the likeness of the man who attacked her and killed her lover [NBC Latino photo courtesy of Hilario Chapa].

Portland, Texas – Pink News, a well-connected LGBTQ news source from Great Britain, reports that the lesbian teen victim of a possible hate crime has been released from hospital three weeks after she was shot in the head.  Mary Kristene Chapa, 18, was attacked along with her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin, on June 22 at Violet Andrews State Park in the Texas Gulf Coast city of Portland. Olgin, who was also shot in the head, died at the scene.  Chapa, known to her family and friends as Kristene, was rushed to an intensive care facility at Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital where she was treated for grave injuries to her brain.

According to her brother, Hilario Chapa, Kristene is now in rehab and is “doing awesome.”  NBC Latino reports that Hilario, a tech sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, is astounded at the progress his little sister has made since someone attempted to kill her with a high caliber hand gun, and left her for dead in the tall grass of the state park. Hilario relates that in the last days of her hospital care, friends were allowed to visit her, and “she lit up” when she saw them. Kristene faces a long medical recovery, and just as challenging a recovery from the loss of her girlfriend, Mollie.  “She’s in neurological rehab, getting her speech and her way of thinking better,” Hilario told NBC Latino. “She also is in physical therapy to help strengthen her left side and mental therapy as well.”

Initially reluctant to let Kristene know that Mollie had not survived the attack, the family finally let her know that Mollie was dead. Police specialists and Mollie’s family were present to help break the news to Kristene. “With that support group we passed the info to my little sister,” Hilario said. “She was brokenhearted, very upset.”  Hilario went on to say how difficult it was to know how to comfort his sister. “They told us you have to let her cry. I didn’t want to tell her not to cry. But Mollie’s father (Mario) is a very good man, considering he lost his daughter.” Grateful for Mr. Olgin’s support for his sister, Hilario says, “He comes to visit her and when he does she gets emotional but he is supporting her. He wants to go visit her in rehab.”  

Portland Police released the information that Kristene was the previously unidentified eyewitness who aided them and the Texas Rangers in creating both the first and second renderings of the attacker’s likeness.  She was reportedly eager to help authorities apprehend the person who killed Mollie. The suspect is a 5-feet-8-inches tall, 14o pound Anglo male, with brown hair and a scruffy beard.  Kristene’s assistance with the sketch has prompted great public interest in finding the man who shattered the Portland community’s peace of mind, and set the South Texas LGBTQ community on guard against a possible hate crime.  Police authorities have repeatedly said that the attack did not appear random, but they have declined so far to support an anti-gay hate crime motive for the shooting. According to friends and family, Kristene and Mollie had been in a five-month love relationship at the time of the assault.

July 17, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lesbian Teen Couple’s Attacker Shown in Police Sketch: Breaking News from South Texas

Police sketch of lesbian teen couple’s attacker.

Portland, Texas – A police sketch of the attacker who killed a lesbian teen and left another gravely wounded was released to the press late on July 4, according to MSNBC and the Dallas Voice. The lesbian teen couple, Mollie Olgin and Mary Chapa, were shot sometime after midnight on June 9 at Violent Andrews Park in Portland, Texas. Olgin, 19, was pronounced dead at the scene.  Chapa, 18, remains under hospital care at this time.

The suspect’s likeness was developed by an unidentified witness, and according to the Portland Police Department is an Anglo male in his 20s, 5 feet eight inches tall, 140 pounds, and is described as “skinny.” Chapa, who survived the attack, has not been interviewed by police investigators because of the seriousness of her medical condition. At this point, the department is still investigating Olgin’s murder as a general homicide, and Chapa’s attack as an aggravated assault.

Police have been at pains to downplay any connection between anti-gay bias and the crimes.  LGBTQ community members have up until this point maintained a “wait-and-see” position, but remain guardedly skeptical. While Police Chief Randy Wright says that there is no evidence of a hate crime in this case, no robbery or sexual assault motive has been suggested in this brutal attack, either. As Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, says in The Advocate, whenever LGBTQ people are killed or attacked with no announced motive, anti-gay bias must be considered a “top-tier” motive for the crime. Besen, who traveled to Portland for a recent vigil, does not mince words when it comes to the responsibility of local police to pursue hate as a trigger for this attack.

MSNBC reports that the couple, lovers for approximately five months at the time of the attack, had planned to spend time together at the popular park before going out for a movie on the night  before their bodies were discovered below an observation deck in tall grass. Witnesses said that they heard two loud cracks around midnight on that night, but did not report it since they believed the noises were firecrackers. Several people were in the area on the evening of June 9, and police have been questioning them as potential witnesses.

July 5, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas, Truth Wins Out, Uncategorized, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teen Lesbian Couple Remembered in Texas Prayer Vigil

Brite Divinity School Community at prayer for Mollie Olgin and Mary Chapa in Friday’s Prayer Vigil held on the school’s Memorial Garden.

Fort Worth, Texas – Mollie Olgin, 19, and Mary Chapa, 18, were remembered Friday by a Divinity School community, and their families and friends were prayed for in an outdoor Prayer Vigil on the school’s campus. Brite Divinity School gathered in Memorial Garden to pray for the recovery of Mary Chapa who remains in intensive care after being shot in the head, and for God’s blessing upon her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin, who died from her wounds.  The horrifying attack took place on the night of June 9-10 at a Texas State Park in Portland, Texas, on the Gulf Coast.  Police have not identified a suspect in the shootings yet. The motive for the attack remains unknown, and police are downplaying a possible hate crime aspect.  The likelihood that Olgin and Chapa were randomly chosen for the assault, however, is very slim.  Portland Police have suggested that this case bears the hallmarks of a “targeted attack,” though there is no evidence of robbery, either.

Organized by Brite’s Dean, Dr. Joretta Marshall, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Director of Field Education, and Mr. Nathan Russell, a Master of Divinity degree student at Brite, the Prayer Vigil was well attended.  In addition to the prayers of the people shared by all present, Dean Marshall read a letter entitled “Pastoral Response and Invitation: June 29, 2012,” which has been sent out by Brite President D. Newell Williams to the Divinity School’s larger network of churches, trustees, alumni, and denominational stake holders.  While the Brite Prayer Vigil is one of as many as 13 vigils for the two young women, the “Pastoral Response” is believed to be the first and only theological appeal in regards to this outrageous and senseless attack.  Expressions of support have been pouring in to the Divinity School for its initiative in carrying out the vigil, among them a word from Lynn Mulder, parent of slain gay son Ryan Keith Skipper who died in an anti-gay hate crime murder in Wahneta, Florida in 2007.  Speaking for many other families and friends of hate crimes victims, Mulder wrote: “To all who attended, you have no idea how healing it will be to these families [of Mollie and Mary].  It has been five years since vigils were held in honor of my son, Ryan Skipper.”  Mulder went on to say, “Seeing these photos helps me still today as we all grieve yet another tragic and senseless loss of life.”

Here in full is the text of the Brite Prayer Vigil appeal read at the service on Friday:

A Pastoral Response and Invitation

June 29, 2012

“We believe in a God whose mercy and justice is without end. In the name of that God, we offer comfort to those who mourn and are outraged over the vicious attacks committed against two young women, Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18, last weekend in a Portland, Texas park. This incident follows other acts of violence such as the racist and homophobic hate graffiti in Arlington earlier in June. Such acts perpetrated against women and men in our country because of who they are, who they choose to love, or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and someone took offense to their existence, reminds all of us that we live in a world that is dangerous to the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of many of us. We invite churches and pastoral leaders to speak out against this kind of injustice and violence, in the name of God.

 Often in our country, the name of God is used in our communities, in our churches, and from our pulpits to condemn or – at the very least – to encourage non-support of those who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Erroneous biblical interpretation connects with fear in ways that make it difficult for LGBT persons to flourish in our churches and in our communities. Hurtful and harmful rhetoric offered by some within the Christian community contributes to the likelihood of violence and reinforces in the minds of some that silence and closets are the best options for their lives. The result is that faithful members of the LGBT community continue to live in fear in their communities and hesitate to speak out on their own behalf or on behalf of others. Members of TLBG communities often avoid our churches because their souls are damaged by the perpetuation of silence or the messages of intolerance and sometimes hate.

We invite pastoral leaders to:

·         pray for the families, friends, and communities surrounding Mollie and Mary

·         pray for all who embody a gender identity or sexual orientation that invites fear because of the potential for violence done against them

·         pray for the souls of those who committed this act of violence and those who participate and support such violence in our world

·         speak out against violence and draw upon the resources of our faith – biblical, historical, ecclesial, pastoral – in ways that clearly claim God’s desire for those within the bisexual, transgender, gay, and lesbian communities to flourish

·         urge reporters, editors, broadcasters, bloggers, and other members of the news media to report incidents like these fully and fairly, informing the public of the human, social, and moral impact of such deeds of violence and injustice

·         create space for communities to gather in deeper and more meaningful conversation about how to be open and vital spiritual homes for all

Thank you for joining our commitment at Brite Divinity School to foster the life-giving and life-affirming grace of God in our communities. If there is any way that we can support the work in your church or community, please do not hesitate to call upon us.

In the meantime, with prayers for all and with grace sufficient to continue the work of embodying justice in our world in God’s name,

Joretta L. Marshall

Executive Vice President and Dean

Brite Divinity School”

June 30, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Teen Lesbian Shootings Spark Urgent Calls From Advocacy Groups to Solve the Crime

L to R: Mary Chapa, 18, and Mollie Olgin, 19, gunned down in what many believe was an anti-lesbian hate crime in Coastal Texas.

Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. – The savage shooting of two Coastal Texas lesbian teens has drawn national attention from major human rights advocacy groups, adding pressure to local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice to bring a killer to justice.  On Saturday morning, the motionless bodies of Mollie Olgin, 19, and Mary Chapa, 18, were found in the tall grass of a popular bayside park in Portland, Texas, where an attacker left them sometime after midnight on Friday (for details, see coverage in Unfinished Lives Blog). Olgin died as a result of a gunshot to her head.  Chapa was rushed to a local hospital for emergency surgery, and remains in serious but stable condition. No suspect or suspects have been identified in the investigation so far. Local authorities have been slow to suggest a motive for the brutal attack. Many believe an anti-lesbian motive lies behind the brutality of the assault, however.  The couple had been in a love relationship for over five months at the time of the killing and assault, according to their friends and co-workers.

The Washington, D.C. based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights and education group, and Equality Texas (EQ TX), based in Austin, are calling on local officials to find the killer and prosecute this case with all possible speed. In a joint statement issued today from Austin, spokespersons for these groups put their wishes in unmistakable terms.

Equality Texas issued the following statement after speaking with the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice:

“Equality Texas joins with the Human Rights Campaign in urging a swift and thorough investigation of this crime. We applaud the Department of Justice Community Relations Service for quickly offering their assistance.  Community members are welcome to join a candlelight walk and vigil this Friday, June 29 at 6 p.m. at Violet Andrews Park, 305 Wildcat, Portland, TX 78374.”

The Human Rights Campaign has reached out to local law enforcement officials as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI. HRC President Chad Griffin released the following statement:

“I want to express my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this horrific crime. Two young lesbian women were shot and one lost her life. Regardless of the motivation behind this tragedy, we must send a strong message that violence against anyone is never acceptable. We have reached out to law enforcement officials at both the federal and local level, and hope to see a thorough investigation. These women, and all victims of violent crimes, deserve nothing less.”

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Texas, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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