St. Louis, Missouri – Local station News Channel 5, KSDK in St. Louis reports a possible hate crime attack against three gay men early Saturday morning that left them cut and bruised, but alive. One of the three lucky survivors, Jacob Piwowarczyk said to reporters, “I have a soft tissue bruise on my elbow. I have six stitches in my eye and I have a mild concussion.” The two other victims suffered a broken nose and a fractured cheekbone. Piwowarczyk went on to describe the attack that took place outside a popular local nightclub, The Complex. Four men who had just left an adjacent bar to The Complex jumped out of their car and confronted Piwowarczyk and his two friends as they crossed the parking area. “They came up out of the car and they start calling us ‘Faggots,'” Piwowarczyk said, showing the press the injuries he sustained in the attack. “We kept telling them please leave us alone, we’re fine,” young Piwowarczyk continued. “From there, the one kid didn’t like what we told them and decided to punch me in the eye and I fell to the ground. And at that time my friend was laying on the ground and they started kicking him in the face.” Club security were the first to respond, probably averting much worse injury to the three gay men. Then, police arrived at the scene. The attackers had fled, reportedly in a black SUV with Illinois plates. Missouri was one of the first states in the Union to include sexual orientation and gender identity protections for its citizens in 1999, according to Vital Voice, the leading LGBT newspaper in St. Louis. Authorities are searching for the suspects, and have yet to determine whether the attack qualifies as a hate crime under the Missouri statute or the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, recently enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. If determined to be a hate crime, the suspects could face severe penalties. The outcome could have been much worse, according to Piwowarczyk. “Health-wise we’re all fine,” he said. “We’re just lucky to be alive.”
Baltimore, Maryland – Glen H. Footman, 52, died November 9 in the University of Maryland Shock and Trauma Center after what the Bangor Daily News called “a 14-month emotional and courageous battle for life” from gunshot wounds in a possible anti-LGBT hate attack in the Mouth Vernon section of Baltimore. Footman was shot twice on September 22, 2008 after being seen walking hand-in-hand with his soul-mate and life partner of 12 years, Alejandro Chavarria. According to Baltimore police, the two gay men were walking shortly after midnight when a young man on a bicycle came up behind them. Footman turned to speak to the young man while Chavarria walked on ahead. Chavarria shouted back to his partner, “Come on, let’s go,” when two shots rang out, and Footman fell, wounded to the pavement. As Chavarria ran to help Footman, the assailant ran from the scene, but then raced back to collect his bike, and then made his getaway. Police have been treating the case as a possible anti-gay hate crime from the beginning of their investigation. The Baltimore Sun reports that the victim’s father, H. Rodney Footman of Brewer, Maine spoke to reporters by phone to say that Baltimore police have not been encouraging about ever locating the shooter. The elder Footman has no doubt that his son was killed because he was gay. Shortly before the attack, Footman’s father said, a witness overhead the assailant brag, “‘I’m going to kill myself a gay tonight.’ He took off with that intention and he did just that. Police were very up front with us in saying that the chance of this ever being solved is practically nil.” Glen Footman’s death not only bereaves his relatives and his partner. Footman was a force for good in the community who will be sorely missed by many. He was a licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor in Maine, Rhode Island, and Texas, and held degrees in business administration and pastoral theology. He counseled youth in Maine and Texas. He and Alex had moved to Maryland shortly before the shooting, where he was to take up a new job at an insurance company. He leaves behind two children from a previous marriage, Nicole Leah and Blaine Jonathan. His beloved Alex, who the Bangor Daily News calls Footman’s “sustaining grace during his last challenging year of physical and emotional struggle,” has returned to San Antonio, where he and Glen first met. Police have not yet ruled Footman’s death a homicide, pending the coroner’s report on whether the injuries sustained in the 2008 shooting were the actual cause of death.
Dallas, TX – A large crowd of vigil keepers gathered at the Crossroads in Dallas on Sunday night to remember murdered gay teens, Jorge Steven López Mercado of Caguas, Puerto Rico, and Jason Mattison, Jr. of Baltimore, Maryland. A third gay teen, Jayron Martin, who survived a vicious homophobic attack in Houston, was also remembered. A coalition of organizations led by Bob McCranie of the Carrolton Project and Daniel Cates of Equality March Texas met at the corner of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton, the historic center of LGBT life in Dallas to voice anger, to express their sadness in solidarity with the families and friends of the slain teens, and to send messages of hope and support from Texas to the loved ones of the boys who were attacked for no other reason than their sexual orientation. Other sponsoring organizations were Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ, the largest LGBT-predominant congregation in the world, Syangogue Beth El Binah, Resource Center Dallas, the Dallas Chapter of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and the Lambda Weekly. Speakers urged the gathering to turn their anger and sorrow into meaningful action for a just world, not only for LGBT people, but for everyone. As vigil keepers lit their candles, the names of 100 slain Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual victims of hate crime murder were spoken aloud in the night. The march wound several blocks down to the Legacy of Love monument at the corner of Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn, and then returned. Rainbow flags were signed by many of the participants with messages of hope and support for Jorge Steven’s family in Puerto Rico, and for Jason’s family in Baltimore. A giant card was signed for Jayron, to let him know of the support he has from the Dallas-Fort Worth LGBT community.
Washington, D.C. – The annual FBI report on bias-related hate crimes in the United States notes increases in violent attacks against LGBT people, African Americans, and Jewish people. Mandated by the 1990 Hate Crimes Statistics Act, the collection and publication of these data received voluntarily from law enforcement organizations almost always underestimate the number of incidents and victims of hate crime attacks because of gaps in reportage, lack of funding to support local law enforcement compliance with FBI requests for this information, and the reluctance of persons to identify themselves as targets of hate violence. CBS News analysis of the 2009 FBI report notes that though the numbers of attacks is up only slightly over the previous year, 7,783 criminal incidents involving 9,168 offenses in 2008 as opposed to 7,624 criminal incidents involving 9,006 offenses reported in 2007, the rise in violence against these three vulnerable groups is particularly worrying. Anti-black attacks accounted for 72.6% of all racially-motivated violence, which in aggregate amounted to 51.3% of all hate crimes in the United States in 2008. Anti-religious bias accounted for 19.5% of the total, with anti-Jewish attacks representing the vast majority of these incidents, 65.7%. Violent crimes motivated by sexual orientation ranked third among all bias-motivated crimes, at 16.7%. Of these anti-LGBT attacks, a full 11% higher in 2008 than in 2007, most by far were perpetrated against gay men, 58.6% of all hate crimes against people because of homophobia and heterosexism. Here in Texas, according to the Dallas Voice, hate crimes against LGBT people were up a full 20% over the previous year. The entire FBI report for 2008 may be accessed in .pdf form here. Human rights leaders across the nation were quick to call for swift and decisive action to prosecute perpetrators of hate violence, and to reduce the alarming increases among blacks, Jews, and LGBT people. Joe Solmonese, speaking for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization released this statement on Monday: “These numbers are unacceptable. While it is so important that we have the new federal hate crimes law, it is critical to ensure that we continue working with the Department of Justice to ensure the safety of LGBT citizens. We have to prosecute each hate crime to the fullest extent of the law, but we also need to get at the roots. When we don’t know each other as human beings, ignorance breeds misunderstanding, which breeds hate, which too often this year led to violence. We have to keep fighting the prejudices and stereotypes that underlie these acts.” Roger G. Sugarman, National Chair of the Anti-Defamation League, noted for the Ha’aretz Service “While the increase in the number of hate crimes may be partially attributed to improved reporting, the fact that these numbers remain elevated – particularly the significant rise in the number of victims selected on the basis of religion or sexual orientation – should be of concern to every American.”
East Baltimore, Maryland – An overflow crowd packed the Unity United Methodist Church on Edmundson Avenue in Baltimore Thursday for the funeral of slain gay teenager, Jason Mattison, Jr. The Baltimore Sun reports that the principal of Mattison’s high school announced the establishment of a scholarship in his memory at the service. “No one is truly gone if you carry them in your heart,” Principal Starletta Jackson said. “And Jason is a part of our heart. We all knew that Jason wanted to be a pediatrician. There was never a question of whether or not he was going to make it. Some children we have to pray over a lot — pray for grades that they pass, but we never worried about that with Jason.” Rev. Patricia D. Johnson, speaking to the mourners, said that young Mattison’s brutal murder serves as a warning to parents to watch over their children in neighborhood of rundown row houses that the church serves. At times during the 90-minute service, teen classmates who loved the sassy, joyous gay boy with his signature tight jeans and cool sweaters were so overcome with emotion they had to excuse themselves from the church sanctuary. No doubt he left his mark on their lives and on the Harlem Park neighborhood where he lived. Principal Jackson concluded her remarks, “We will miss you, Jason, but know that your memory will never be lost.” Mystery surrounds the grisly murder. Dante L. Parrish was arrested and confessed to the rape and slaughter of Mattison, and is being held without bail. Mattison’s cousin described him as “an old family friend,” presumably of Mattison’s aunt, where the gay youth’s body was found in an upstairs closet, gagged with a pillowcase and savagely stabbed in the head and neck with a box cutter. Conflicting accounts of why Mattison was at his aunts’ house have come from family members. His cousin says that he was “visiting relatives.” His paternal grandmother has said that her grandson was actually living in the home rather than in his parents’ home, suggesting some possible alienation or estrangement that Mattison kept under wraps at school. While he was an open book insofar as his sexual orientation was concerned, he was tightlipped about his home life and his living situation around his classmates. Family sources also suggest that Parrish had exhibited an unhealthy interest in Mattison for some time, one that allegedly made the gay youth uncomfortable. As the investigation into one of Baltimore’s worst bias-related hate crimes continues, the search for answers about his family’s relationship with a convicted murderer and their attitude toward Mattison’s homosexuality goes on. On Sunday, vigils and protests related to Jason’s horrific death and that of slain Puerto Rican gay teen, Jorge Steven López Mercado, took place in more than 20 cities around the country, from coast-to-coast.
Baltimore, Maryland – According to information released by the Baltimore Sun, Jason Mattison, Jr.’s accused killer had previously served time for first-degree murder. Dante L. Parrish, 35, who is accused of raping and murdering the 15-year-old gay boy was convicted of murder in 2000 for a 1999 crime, and had served ten years of a thirty year sentence. Records show that he had repeatedly appealed his conviction and sentence. After a judge ruled that his legal counsel at the time of his original murder trial was “ineffective,” Parrish was granted a new trial. In a plea bargain for second-degree murder in the second trial, he was released from prison in January 2009 for time served, satisfying his sentence. Parrish was a friend of the family, rooming in the home of Mattison’s aunt on Llewellyn Avenue in East Baltimore, but it is still unknown how long he had lived in the house before allegedly committing the murder. Mattison was visiting his relatives at the time of the killing, which went undetected until police, who were summoned to the home for a burglary investigation on Tuesday, November 10 were shown blood oozing out from under a closet door on the second floor of the rowhouse. There they discovered the gagged, raped, and repeatedly stabbed body of young Mattison buried under a pile of blankets. The teen had been knifed in the head and throat multiple times with a box cutter found in the house. Parrish became a suspect right away, and was identified and arrested at a 7-Eleven store in Northeast Baltimore on Thursday, November 12. Speaking to reporters, Mattison’s cousin, Tara Dudley, said, “I need him to be brought to justice and pay for what he did to my cousin. He needs to pay for what he did to him.” A spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department said on Friday that Parrish has confessed to the crime. He is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree sex offense, and first-degree assault. Bail was denied, and Parrish is being held in jail pending what will be his third trial for murder in little over a decade.