Washington, DC – The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued its 2013 hate crimes statistics today: Hate Crime Statistics, 2013, the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s first publication to present data collected under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009. A snapshot of the findings may be garnered from the press release that may be accessed here. Hate Crimes against persons because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender non-conformity comprised over one fifth of the total. 20.2 percent were targeted because of anti-sexual orientation bias, 0.3 percent for anti-gender bias, and 0.5 percent for anti-gender identity bias. 1,461 persons were victimized because of bias against sexual orientation.
To be a gay man, or to be perceived as a gay man, remains the most dangerous sexual orientation identification in the United States. 60.9 percent were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti-gay (male) bias. 22.5 percent were victims of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (mixed group) bias. 13.1 percent were victims of anti-lesbian bias. 1.8 percent were victims of anti-bisexual bias. 1.6 percent were victims of anti-heterosexual bias.
Anti-sexual orientation hate crimes add up to the second largest hate crime category reported by the FBI this year. First in number are anti-racial hate crimes, and third in number are hate crimes based on antipathy of one’s religion. A staggering 7,242 persons in the United States were victims of hate crimes last year. Five murders and 21 rapes (15 from agencies that collected data using the revised rape definition and 6 from agencies that used the legacy definition) were reported as hate crimes. While FBI data are collected from cooperating law enforcement agencies around the country, most experts agree that the numbers of hate crimes reported are a severe undercount.
Most hate crime incidents (31.5 percent) occurred in or near residences/homes. More than 18 percent (18.1) occurred on highways/roads/alleys/streets/sidewalks; 8.3 percent occurred at schools/colleges; 5.7 percent happened at parking/drop lots/garages; and 3.5 percent took place in churches/synagogues/temples/mosques. The location was considered other/unknown for 13.2 percent of hate crime incidents. The remainder of hate crime incidents took place at other specified or multiple locations.
The complete FBI report may be accessed here, complete with tables and commentary.
Infamous Lesbian Murder Case Cracked in Texas: Alleged Shooter Arrested After Two-Year Investigation
Portland, Texas – Nearly two years after teenage lesbian lovers were abducted and shot on a steep grassy hillside in this South Texas coastal town, a 27-year-old suspect has finally been arrested, according to Portland, Texas law enforcement authorities. David Malcolm Strickland was arrested Friday and charged with the capital murder of Mollie Olgin, 19 at the time of the shooting, and for the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon of Kristene Chapa, 18, whom he allegedly shot in the head at the same time. Chapa survived, though the damage to the left side of her brain left her unable to walk, sit, or stand. Only with years of therapy and surgery has Chapa been able to reacquire her balance and mobility. In addition to these charges, the shooter has been charged with aggravated sexual assault. Details are still emerging from the investigation, and further charges may be brought, according to authorities. Strickland’s wife, Laura Kimberly, 23, has also been detained by Portland Police, and faces charges of tampering with evidence.
“I hope that it gives [the victims, their families, and community members] some closure knowing that this person is taken off the street,” Portland Police Chief Gary Giles said to NBC News. “It is one day before the two-year anniversary. We’ve been working very hard to make sure we get him as soon as possible. A series of fortunate events has led us to this point and I’m just very happy that we could help in — at least at this point — in bringing him to justice.”
Strickland was apprehended in the Helotes suburb of San Antonio on Friday by Texas Rangers and U.S. Marshals. Texas Rangers, U.S. Marshals, and Portland Police officers took Strickland’s wife into custody. Robert R. Almonte, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas told NBC News, “My sympathies and condolences to the victims and their families who had to endure this wicked act of violence. [Strickland] is a stone cold killer who thought he got away with murder, but will finally pay for his crime.”
The reconstructed murder event that took place in Portland remains chilling, even after two years. Chapa, now 20 years old, said she went with Olgin on Friday night, June 23, 2012 to Violet Andrews Park, to see where Olgin had been baptized. The suspect forced the teenagers at gun point down a steep incline where he bound them, sexually assaulted them, and shot them both, leaving them to die. A couple out bird watching the next morning discovered the victims. Olgin had died of her wounds, but Chapa, who had clawed her way out of the sharp, thorny brush, survived, and was rushed to a medical center for emergency surgery. Chapa returned to the scene of the crime to assist investigators. She recounted to a reporter how difficult it was for her to go back to the place where her lover died so cruelly. “I felt every cut, every thorn go through my hand,” she said of the brush she fought to get out of, pointing to the scars still plainly visible on her arms. “I kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to get help.’”
Sergeant Roland Chavez of the Portland Police Department discussed the investigation with reporters. DNA evidence from finger prints around the crime scene initially belonged to over 250 suspects, Chavez said. Then the slow process of singling out the shooter had to go step-by-step. Investigators wanted to make sure they had the right man before making the arrest, else they feared Chapa would only be victimized again by a false ID. The shooter used a .45 caliber handgun on the teenagers, sometime between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on Friday, June 23, 2012. The teenagers had no prior knowledge of their attacker, which complicated the case, making it even seem more brutal and bizarre. Neither did the suspect have a previous criminal record, providing officers another hurdle to overcome. Chavez speculated that the shooter may have fantasized about such a crime long before the actual event, and worked himself up to doing it over time. The birdwatching couple who discovered Olgin and Chapa stumbled across the gruesome scene at about 8:30 a.m. the next day.
Authorities are still at a loss to explain the motive for the crime at this point. They have consistently ruled out anti-lesbian hatred as a motive, but the suspicion that homophobia and certainly heterosexism may have played a part in targeting the couple just won’t go away. Hate crimes against women are particularly difficult to sort out, since homophobia is so often a weapon of sexism.
Chapa still struggles to open and close her left hand. The bullet destroyed the area of her brain controlling motion on her left side. Her wounds left her an invalid, much like a stroke victim. Hard work, support, and courage are paying off. Though she will never regain total mobility, Chapa told reporters that she knows she will almost get there, if she just keeps up the struggle. Worse for her is the loss of her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin. “Every day I think about her,” she said of Olgin. “I pray for her, just for her to watch over me.” Since the attack, Chapa has reached out to other victims of gun violence and paralysis, like the families devastated by the Newtown School shooting in Connecticut. “I opened up myself to them and just told them how my story is similar, I just put my feelings in there,” she said to NBC News, also saying that she hopes “to meet more victims who have been shot because we relate. I’m pretty sure we’ve been through a lot of the same things and have felt the same ways.”
She and her parents are still appealing to the public to help fund Chapa’s rehabilitation, care, and recovery. Her family has exhausted their resources, and though a good deal of money has been donated these past two years, it hasn’t been enough. Chapa says that she and her folks are “pretty much alone” in the effort to finance her health care. The funding site originally set up to assist with Chapa’s care has been discontinued without public explanation.
After a news conference arranged by the Portland Police Department to announce Strickland’s arrest, Chapa reflected on her feelings. Though she told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times she felt safer now that the suspect was in custody, the pain and loss are still there for her. “It will never take back the pain and hurt he did to our families. And it won’t bring Mollie back,” she said. “Right now for both our families this is very hard.”
San Patricio District Attorney Michael Welborn believes they have their man. “We feel we have a very strong case to put forth,” he said. “We fully believe that we are going to bring justice to these two young ladies and their families.”
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.
Plainville, Connecticut – A homophobic man has been arrested for repeatedly threatening to kill his lesbian sister on Christmas Day. Gordon Bissonnette, 46, of Plainville, Connecticut was reported to local police in the early hours of Christmas by his mother, according to Gay Star News. Clelie Bissonnette said her son had sworn to kill her lesbian daughter Corinne if she came to the holiday gathering at her home. His brother, Brian, also went to police with eight voicemails from Gordon recorded since the beginning of December, in which the 46-year-old said he would “execute” is sister if he saw her on Christmas.
Among the messages threatening to murder his sister, Gordon Bissonnette allegedly said:
“If she [expletive deleted] with my child again, I will execute her myself,” he said, according to the police report.
“Corinne, if she goes against me, there will be bullets flying. She cannot talk to me. I wanna execute her. I will kill a gay.”
He allegedly added: “I’ll put a bullet in both [Corinne’s and her spouse’s] heads. If they turn my daughter gay, I’m gonna kill them both. I’m gonna blow their brains out.”
According to FoxCT.com, Bissonnette believed his 18-year-old daughter was being adversely influenced by his sister and her spouse.
In yet another message, according to EDGE On The Net, Bissonnette declares that he is at “war” with his sister over her homosexuality, and asks his brother to help “destroy” their sister Corinne’s Christmas.
Investigators reported to the press that Bissonnette admitted to the voicemails, but claimed he didn’t recall making them because of his heavy drinking. The police report also details how Bissonnette confessed to planning a smoke bomb attack on the home of his sister and her spouse during the holidays to cause them “to freak out.” Bissonnette is charged with second-degree intimidation, second-degree threatening and second-degree harassment. He is being held on $75,000 bond, pending trial in Bristol Superior Court on January 24.
Lincoln, Nebraska – Two lesbians were attacked Thursday by a man wielding a crowbar for supposedly shaming his family. When the attack failed, he and his friend rammed the women’s car with a pickup truck, attempting to push the women’s vehicle into oncoming traffic. KLKN TV reports that Ahmed Tuma and his accomplice, Nathan Marks, both 20 years of age, took offense when Tuma’s sister announced she was a lesbian, and became engaged to her fiancée. Tuma allegedly believed his sister’s relationship with a woman shamed his family, enraging him to the point he enlisted Marks to accompany him on an ambush. Prior to the attack, Tuma had made death threats against his sister. Lincoln Police Department spokesperson Officer Katie Flood confirmed, “They were in fear for their lives, he had made some verbal threats to kill the sister.”
Gay Star News says that the lesbians had pulled their car near their home, and had just gotten out to enter the house at approximately 5 p.m. on Thursday when Tuma rushed them, brandishing a crowbar. The women escaped back to the safety of their car just as the brother swung the weapon. They frantically tried to start the car as Tuma hit the vehicle’s windows repeatedly, trying to smash them out. When the lesbians succeeded in starting their car, Tuma rushed back to Marks’s pickup, and the two men rammed their victims’ auto in an apparent attempt to push it into the traffic speeding by. The couple was able to get away from their assailants, and called police.
Police arrested Tuma for attempted 2nd degree assault, criminal mischief, two counts of terroristic threats and use of a weapon to commit a felony. All of the charges except use of a weapon carry a hate crime enhancement. Marks was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting a terroristic threat, and aiding and abetting the use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. Both men have been arraigned, and will stand trial for the hate crimes in a Lincoln court.