Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Panic Murder At TCU Raises Unanswered Questions

David Hidalgo (l) claims "gay panic" led him to stab Stewart Trese (r) to death.

David Hidalgo (l) claims “gay panic” led him to stab TCU senior marketing student Stewart Trese (r) to death.

Fort Worth, Texas – The roll out of developments surrounding the murder of a 23-year-old Texas Christian University senior at the Grand Marc Apartments leave a host of questions unanswered–both about the so-called “gay panic” his confessed killer claims led him to murder, and the uneasy state of LGBTQ members of the campus community.  This we know so far: the victim, Stewart Trese, a marketing major and Japanese minor at TCU, was stabbed to death in the hallway of the Grand Marc by 21-yar-old David Hidalgo, a “townie” who had known Trese for some months before the fatal “altercation,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  At 9:22 a.m. on February 4, Trese was pronounced dead outside his apartment from multiple stab wounds.  A day later, Hidalgo was taken into custody at John Peter Smith Hospital by Fort Worth Police and charged with murder.  Now in the Mansfield Jail under $100,000 bond pending trial, Hidalgo made the explosive claim in a jailhouse interview with WFAA TV that Trese made sexual advances, drew a knife on him, and threatened his life.

In what amounts to a “gay panic” justification of his actions, Hidalgo claims that Trese called him over to his apartment near the TCU campus “to see something,” and when Stewart met him in the hallway of the Grand Marc outside the apartment, he seized Hidalgo’s buttocks, made sexual demands of him, and drew a pocket knife, threatening to kill Hidalgo if he didn’t give in sexually.  “He pulled out the knife and said, ‘I’m gonna kill you,’ he said, ‘I’m gonna kill you,’ and he came toward me with the knife and I grabbed his hand that the knife was in and I tried to wrestle it out from him,” Hidalgo claimed in the WFAA/Channel 8 interview. “We ended up on the floor and I ended up stabbing him in the chest and in the throat.”   Expressing regret at what he had done, Hidalgo went on to say there was little else he could do because Stewart was so angry at being refused sexually.  “When he pulled that knife on me I was really scared, I thought he was going to kill me,” Hidalgo said. “I really think he was going to.”

Gay media are expressing doubt about Hidalgo’s story.  John Wright of Lone Star Q  isn’t buying Hidalgo’s “gay panic” account on two counts: first, Wright calls any such defense of violence against LGBTQ people “bunk,” and second, to believe that a man in a relatively long-term friendship would suddenly attempt rape at knife-point seems “bizarre.”  More likely, Wright suggests, a romantic relationship had developed between the men, and the hint of drugs makes the friction between them more credible.

The notorious “gay panic defense” has been a staple of heterosexist, homophobic and transphobic legal and public relations tactics for decades in the United States, relying on the gullibility and anti-LGBTQ prejudice of juries and the general public to lessen punishments for defendants perpetrating violence against gay and transgender victims.  But in August 2013, the American Bar Association in its annual convention unanimously supported the demise of “gay panic” and “trans panic” in U.S. courts.  The Journal of the ABA reports:

“The ABA House of Delegates has unanimously passed a resolution urging federal, state, local and territorial governments to pass legislation curtailing the availability and effectiveness of the use of ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ defenses by criminal defendants. These defense strategies seek to excuse the crimes by saying that the victim’s sexual orientation caused their assailant’s violent reaction to them.”  Speaking prior to the vote, D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association said that such legal tactics were “surprisingly long-lived historical artifacts” reflecting the homophobia and heterosexism prevalent in the past.  She went to say that such defenses were based upon “the notion that LGBT lives are worth less than other lives.” 

Trese had been introduced to Hidalgo approximately 18 months before the killing by a “friend” who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, according to the Star-Telegram.  The two men met at the Altamesa Church of Christ, and volunteered at the church’s related charity program, Neighborhood Needs.  The anonymous friend went on to say that the men became “close,” and that their unequal backgrounds did not seem to hinder their relationship.  While Hidalgo did not have a job or a personal vehicle and grew up literally beside the train tracks, Stewart was the son of Dr. Thomas Trese, D.O., a prominent Fort Worth Neurologist.  Even if their friendship soured over time, it strains credibility to believe that “gay panic” ignited the wrestling match that led to Trese’s grisly murder.

TCU Allies logo

TCU Allies logo

Was Trese a gay man, or same-sex attracted?  His family does not believe so, according to his brother Steve who told the Star-Telegram “Stewart was not that guy. We have the utmost faith in the Fort Worth police and district attorney’s office and the truth will come out.”  Concerning Hidalgo’s motive for making a gay claim against his brother, Steve Trese added, “We believe that somebody in his predicament would do anything to save his skin.”  Trese was not a member of TCU’s LGBT student organization, though he was listed as a member of TCU Allies, a gathering of students, faculty and staff supportive of the equal rights of LGBTQ people.  His sexual orientation remains a mystery. His station in life and his association with evangelical Christian organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Churches of Christ (Non-instrumental) would have encouraged a deeply closeted gay man to remain so to all but a few confidants, lovers, and friends.

Is Hidalgo gay, or gay curious?  Does he harbor the sort of anti-gay feelings that would add fuel to the sort of attack that bears all the hallmarks of an anti-gay hate crime murder?  By his own admission, Hidalgo stabbed Trese five times and cut his throat.  While not being definitive, brutality and bloodiness like this are characteristic of the type of “wet work” carried out by homophobic killers.  But how could he have remained friends for so long with Trese, if indeed Trese was closeted or questioning, were Hidalgo to suffer from deep seated antipathy towards same-sex desire?  Once again, we are faced with a mystery, and with the suggestion that money and drugs may have played a critical part in this case.

David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth, in liaison with the Fort Worth Police Department’s LGBT contact, communicated with TCU GSA Alumni to say he is working to keep channels open with the police and the LGBTQ community on campus.  Henderson voiced confidence in the FWPD, saying, “I have every confidence that FWPD is taking the murder of Mr. Trese very seriously and will develop the case necessary to prosecute Mr. Hidalgo to the fullest extent of the laws.”  

While Texas Christian University has an active LGBT Gay Student Association and alumni group, the record of the university on same-sex issues is spotty.  There is little encouragement for faculty and staff to come out openly if they are LGBTQ.  The administration’s attitude towards queer concerns is by turns benign and callous, as the unbending decision to bring notoriously anti-gay Chik-Fil-A to campus shows, despite faculty and student unrest about the fast food purveyor.  As is the case in many church-related colleges and universities in the South and Southwest, TCU likes to point to its enlightened, progressive approach to LGBTQ concerns while at the same time refusing to establish and staff an Office of LGBTQ Relations on its campus (something conservative Texas A&M has done since 1996).  The whiff of gay murder and hate crime around campus will probably encourage the policy of denial that TCU has adopted for years.  But hard questions will continue to be asked as the investigation into the brutal murder of one of the university’s prominent marketing seniors proceeds–a murder that certainly suggests  that troubling gay aspects of this case will not be denied for much longer.

February 10, 2014 Posted by | American Bar Association (ABA), anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Fairness Fort Worth, Fort Worth Police Department, gay men, gay panic defense, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Internalized homophobia, LGBTQ, National LGBT Bar Association, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Texas, Texas A&M GLBT Center, Texas Christian University (TCU), transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Panic Murder At TCU Raises Unanswered Questions

Atlanta Eagle Gets $1m for Bogus Police Raid

Atlanta, Georgia – The Altanta City Council has voted 14-0 to award the Atlanta Eagle Bar $1 million in response to a federal lawsuit filed by a private attorney on behalf of 19 clients unjustly arrested in a botched police raid last September, according to a report by WTVM News 9 and the Associate Press. The night of September 10, 2009, four-dozen police crashed the Underwear Night special event at the Atlanta Eagle, slamming patrons to the floor, using homophobic slurs, and arresting and detaining 62 people. Police targeted the gay bar on the pretext of illicit sex and drugs, allegations that were never proven. The owner of the Eagle, Richard Ramey, went immediately on the offense against the raid, saying to the Atlanta Journal Constitution on September 12, 2009, “Our problem is with the way our customers were treated,” Ramey told the Journal-Constitution in a Sept. 12, 2009 article. Nick Koperski, a bar patron present at the time of the raid, said in the same article, “I’m thinking, this is Stonewall. It’s like I stepped into the wrong decade.” The Atlanta Police Department refused to cooperate with an investigation by the Atlanta Citizens Council. Charges brought against employees and patrons either  failed to win convictions, collapsed for lack of evidence, or were otherwise dismissed, according to a report by EDGE.  Last March eight employees of the bar were found not guilty of trumped up charges by the Atlanta Police Department in a ruling handed down in Municipal Court. Investigations into the raid found that the Atlanta Police Department did not have a warrant to raid the bar on the night in question. Mandatory revisions to police procedures will be carried out in response to the settlement. The vindication of the Atlanta Eagle stands in sharp contrast to the outcome of the Fort Worth Police Department’s infamous Raid on the Rainbow Lounge just months before the Atlanta debacle. Like the Georgia raid, all charges against patrons arrested at the popular Fort Worth gay bar have been dropped without comment from the city. Unlike the Atlanta outcome, however, the Fort Worth Police Department has never issued a sufficient apology (in our opinion) or formally admitted any wrongdoing in the illicit raid on the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, nor has the action of the FWPD ever been deemed wrong by an outside investigation. This has been in spite of the public action disciplining officers of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) for their part in the raid, and a formal apology issued by the executive of the TABC. What exempted the FWPD from disciplinary actions similar to the TABC?  Factors contributing to the non-resolution of the Fort Worth police raid may include a less-than-robust defense of bar patrons by the Rainbow Lounge ownership at the time of the bust, and the less aggressive approach Fort Worth gay leaders employed to bring the city and the police department to account. While there have been laudable actions in response to the Rainbow Lounge Raid, such as the establishment of a police liaison with the local LGBT community, and transgender protections added to municipal protection statutes, honesty about the motives and motivators behind the Fort Worth raid remain unspoken and unacknowledged. While we are glad the city of Fort Worth dropped charges against patrons charged in the arrests the night of the raid, including public intoxication and groping, the harm done by the raid in Cowtown has not been acknowledged by the powers that be, and therefore the LGBTQ community, and the individual Texans directly wronged remain unjustified. Justice for Atlanta, but how about for Fort Worth? We guess the mayor of Fort Worth has more control over the courts, the press, and the gay establishment in North Texas than the mayor of Atlanta. A good thing? You be the judge.

December 7, 2010 Posted by | Atlanta Eagle Bar Raid, Atlanta Police Department, Fort Worth Police Department, Gay Bar Raids, gay men, Georgia, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Media Issues, police brutality, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stonewall Inn, Texas, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Atlanta Eagle Gets $1m for Bogus Police Raid

Fort Worth Pulls in its Horns: Charges Against Rainbow Lounge Raid Victims Dropped

Police and TABC subdue Chad Gibson during Rainbow Lounge Raid (Chuck Potter cell phone photo)

Fort Worth, Texas – Dallas Voice reports that charges against all the victims of the Fort Worth Police and TABC Raid against the Rainbow Lounge have been dropped by the city.  The infamous Raid took place on June 28, 2009, the 40th anniversary of an eerily similar bar bashing that took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village.  To recap: Officers of the Fort Worth Police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided the newly-opened Rainbow Lounge, intimidating patrons, arresting men on charges of intoxication, and arresting Chad Gibson on a charge of assault against an officer.  Gibson was seriously wounded by arresting officers who slammed him to the concrete, and caused a brain hemorrhage.  Gibson has subsequently recovered.  The raiders contended that Gibson “groped” an officer in the course of the arrest.  While the TABC acted to discipline its officers, firing some of them for breaking policy during the raid, the Fort Worth Police have never admitted any wrong-doing in an incident that gave Fort Worth bad press throughout the nation and the world for colossal insensitivity at the very least, and, in the eyes of many, outright police brutality.  Chief Halstead of the FWPD made homophobic remarks that boomeranged on him and the city in the wake of the raid.  Dallas and Fort Worth LGBTQ communities protested the raid, drawing media attention for weeks.  In February, eight months after the raid, the city of Fort Worth pressed charges and scheduled trials for the gay men arrested that night.  Now, in a 180 degree reversal of direction, all charges against the Rainbow Lounge Raid Five have been dropped.  Jason Lamers, official spokesperson for the city of Fort Worth, issued this statement to the press: “The Class C misdemeanor charges from the Rainbow Lounge against George Armstrong, Dylan Brown, Chad Gibson and Jose Macias were dismissed yesterday by the city. As it is our official policy not to discuss municipal court prosecutions or litigation, the city will have no further comment.” The public intoxication charges against Armstrong, Brown, Macias, and Gibson were dropped, as well as the assault charge lodged against Gibson.  While something less than a full vindication of the victims of the raid, the action of the city amounts to an admission that the charges and the raid were without merit and were unjustified in the first place.  Fairness Fort Worth, Queer LiberAction, and many more activist groups which protested the raid have been proven right by this retreat on the part of the city.  “The Fort Worth Way,” the behind-the-scenes management of the city of Fort Worth by an oligarchic group of landed gentry and wealthy families, can also claim some degree of victory in this action, as well.  The FWPD never admitted wrong-doing, Mayor Mike Moncrief, a scion of one of the city’s leading families, never apologized, and political cover remains intact for the way the raid was handled.  But this abrupt decision, to drop all charges against men who were enjoying a summer night on the town in a gay bar, signals that Cowtown has gotten the message from the LGBTQ citizenry of North Texas: they will not tolerate bullying and oppression anymore.  In a Texas-style stare-down, the queer community did not blink–Cowtown did.

November 20, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Fort Worth Police Department, gay men, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, police brutality, Protests and Demonstrations, Rainbow Lounge Raid, Social Justice Advocacy, Stonewall Inn, Texas, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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