Baltimore, Maryland – A popular gay hairstylist was savagely beaten by a gang of men outside an East Baltimore liquor store on Christmas night. The motive? Kenni Shaw, the victim of the attack, has no doubt that the random attack was because of his perceived sexual orientation. Police are still investigating the alleged anti-gay hate crime in the “Charm City.”
According to the Baltimore Sun, Shaw, 30 years old, was simply walking past the East Baltimore beverage shop near his home at approximately 9 p.m. on Christmas when the assault started. Shaw said he tried to beg his attackers to stop, but the blows kept coming so hard and fast he couldn’t get the words out of his mouth. The punches pinned him to the pavement. ”I was just beaten in my face. Nothing was taken. No words were exchanged before the incident, so to me, I think it was a hate crime,” Shaw told The Sun. People in his neighborhood had previously called him “faggot,” but Shaw, a six-foot-tall cosmetologist and hairstylist, never believed homophobic attitudes would issue in such violence.
His mother, Sheila Shaw, told The Sun that Kenni had immediately called her. “I can’t even describe that moment for me. I thought my world was ending,” she said. “No parent wants to get that phone call. The tone of his voice … I thought, ‘He’s strong enough to make the phone call, but I’m probably going to lose my son.’” When she rushed to the hospital and finally got to see her son, Ms. Shaw said she could hardly recognize who he was.
While he was on the phone, paramedics came to transport him to Johns Hopkins, the famed Baltimore hospital, where he was treated for his wounds. Despite the bruises, cuts, and lacerations on his face and knees, there were no fractures. Shaw suspects that bystanders called for help, an indication that not all residents of the neighborhood agree with anti-gay violence.
Shaw said to WBFF Fox News 45 that he was simply glad to be alive. During his recovery at his mother’s home in Baltimore County, Shaw posted an Instagram photo of himself, before and after the assault, showing the horrific effects of the attack. According to Pink News, hundreds of responses supporting the hairstylist poured in from around the country and the world. As he healed from the physical injuries of hate, Shaw decided to speak out against the homophobia that victimizes so many in Baltimore. “It makes me angry and upset, but at the same time, I am here and I made it through,” he told The Sun. “I just want to stand and make sure I have a voice, so this doesn’t happen again to a loved one or anyone.” His relatives are standing strong with Shaw, as well, supporting his outspoken efforts to stop anti-gay hate crimes in their community.
“This needs to be spoken to because somebody needs to take a stand,” he said. “Hate crimes happen every day.”
Shaw firmly believes that anti-gay bias motivated his attackers, spoiling the Christmas spirit for him, his family, and the City of Baltimore. Police have been receptive to Shaw’s allegations, and say that, even though they are not ready to assign a motive to the assault at this time, they have already received several “good leads” in the case. When arrests are made, Baltimore Police say that they will communicated with the Attorney General of the state to determine the nature of the charges they will file.
Meanwhile, Shaw says he will not stop speaking out. In an interview with The Sun, he told reporters, “I’m glad I could share my story and people could empathize with the story, because I’m getting a lot of feedback from people who have been through it or who have had family members who have been through it,” Shaw said. “I’m glad I could be a spokesman, because a lot of people don’t make it through situations like this.”
The murder victim, Dustin Reeb, aka Shaun Walsh, a well-known and highly respected member of the Dallas community theater community, was found in his Carrollton home by his housemate on Friday evening, brutally murdered. The scene prompted Reeb’s pastor, the Rev. Colleen Darraugh, to report that blood was spattered throughout the home, damaging clothing and furnishings, and requiring massive cleanup. Rev. Darraugh and the members of the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, a Carrollton congregation attended by both Reeb and his housemate, has organized a fund to help defray the costs of the cleanup and the purchase of new furniture. Darraugh told the Dallas Voice that knives were apparently used in the fatal attack.
A search of online court documents done by Dallas Voice reporters shows that Gehrer had been previously arrested for crimes such as trespassing, assault, and theft. He had lived at a series of addresses in Dallas, including an address on Cedar Springs Road, in the heart of the gay community.
The North Texas gay community still awaits answers to nagging questions about the motive for the murder, which has shaken Carrollton, but barely received any coverage in the regional or statewide press. The absence of this coverage prompts its own set of hard questions. The Rev. Ed Middleton, pastor of First Community United Church of Christ, posted a comment on the Dallas Voice Instant Tea blog noting that virtually no press coverage on this crime has gone on beyond the work done by the Voice. “Anyone wondering where the rest of the Dallas media is?” Middleton writes. “My God, they can spend five nights on the disapperance of some random person and drag the family before the cameras to get as many sobs as viewers can take, but let a basically good kid get savagely attacked and murdered and not a peep.” The Dallas Voice promises more revelations on this case by Friday.
Carrollton, Texas – The body of a savagely murdered 22-year-old gay man was found by his housemate in his home in this Dallas suburb on Friday. Police, who are classifying the investigation as a murder case, are not releasing his identity. The victim, known by his circle of friends, fellow church members, and work associates as “Shawn,” was found by Tony Adams who shared a home with him in the 2100 block of Placid Drive. Adams discovered the body upon returning home from work. According to the Dallas Voice, the victim was a well-regarded actor in the Dallas arts community, along with Adams.
“Shawn’s” identity has been complicated because he was known by a stage name he had assumed in the theater, and enjoyed using the name as his own in real life. As of Monday, it is not clear whether “Shawn’s” family has been contacted about the homicide.
Both Adams and the victim attended the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas where Rev. Colleen Darraugh is the pastor. Pastor Darraugh is quoted by the Dallas Voice as saying that blood covered much of the house. “Evidently it was a brutal beating,” she said, intimating that knives may have been used in the fatal attack. The MCC of Greater Dallas is collecting money to help Adams with the crime-scene cleanup, and with replacing clothing and furnishings that were destroyed in the crime. In an email sent to congregational members and friends, Pastor Darraugh wrote, in part:
“Tony Adams Schmidt is a friend and colleague who some of you know through his work on sound and lighting at Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas and others know through his acting, directing, sound and lighting work in community theatre.
“We regret to share with you that Tony’s housemate, Shawn – whom many of you also know – was brutally killed in their home. The police are actively investigating to apprehend the culprits and to find the motive for this extreme violence.
“We share in grief at the death of Shawn and pray for his family and all of his friends.
“We surround Tony with love and support, praying for him as he deals with his grief and the shock of finding such a horrific scene.”
The email goes on to detail how donations can be made online to the church’s Benevolence Fund.
The nature of the murder, whether it was related to the victim’s sexual orientation, and how the murder gained access to the home are open questions for the LGBTQ community of Dallas and its surrounding suburbs. As the story unfolds, Unfinished Lives will continue to monitor police reports and the media to ensure this terrible crime does not disappear from the community’s sight.