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.
Lincoln, Nebraska – “I am not a pawn in a game, you know. I am a person.” Charlie Rogers, the victim of an alleged hate crime mutilation in the Nebraska capital city spoke out for the first time in an extended interview on KETV Omaha on Thursday. Rogers, a 33-year-old small business owner who lives openly as a lesbian, said she decided to grant the interview in response to media reports that police were investigating if her report was a hoax.
The five-minute interview shows the passion and hurt Ms. Rogers feels as the victim of a horrific home invasion, allegedly by three masked men early on Sunday who stripped her, bound her with zip ties, carved anti-gay slurs into her flesh, and then attempted to set the house on fire. Her harrowing experience did not end with a stay in the hospital and then in a safe house where she has been recovering since the attack. Now Ms. Rogers has to deal with the suspicions unleashed by doubts about her report of what happened to her in the dead of night in her own home. “It feels like a kick in the stomach,” she told KETV, even though she understands that there will always be doubters. “Being a victim in situation like this or a survivor and then having your integrity questioned, I guess, it feels very victimizing again,” Rogers said. “It makes an already difficult situation more difficult because my world has been changed forever by these events.” Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood suggested to NBC that they were investigating all aspects of the case, including whether Ms. Rogers made the whole thing up. The media seized on the suggestion of a hoax immediately, sensationalizing the story of this outrage into an inquest into the victim’s credibility.
Investigators found three spray-painted anti-gay epithets in Ms. Rogers’ home, including one that read, “We Found U Dyke!” Coupled with the victim’s report that the attack was motivated by homophobia, and the slurs sliced into her skin, all these factors have led police to proceed as if this case was a hate crime based on sexual orientation.
But the hate crime investigation notwithstanding, Lincoln’s populace is reportedly plagued by doubts. Speculation mounted in the days before Ms. Rogers’ interview–“what if…?”
Ms. Rogers’ attorney, Megan Mikolajczyk, told CNN that her client wanted to dispel as much of the doubt as she could. Mikolajczyk said she wasn’t surprised that there were people who wondered if the attack really ever happened at all. She also said that Ms. Rogers was not answering any one person’s doubts in particular. “I don’t think it’s safe or necessary to point the finger at any one individual,” Mikolajczyk said. “I think it’s par for the course for any sort of high-profile incident for people to question what happened.”
Sadly, Ms. Rogers’ attorney is right: it is “par for the course” for doubts to be raised about the veracity, mental state, motives, and character of LGBTQ hate crimes victims whenever they are targeted by violent attacks. Such suspicion may or may not aid investigators to arrive at the truth in cases like this one, but it surely re-victimizes the person wounded or killed in such attacks. “We-doubt-you” stories in the press and on TV also rob many of these outrageous crimes of their news worthy power to draw badly needed national attention to the soaring increases in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. Blame and besmirch the victims of hate crimes is one of the leading ways heterosexist communities control gay people, as dozens of stories on the Unfinished Lives Blog show. One has to wonder whether statements of police officers to the media about hoaxes are less about the search for forensic truth than the desperation of the status quo to stay intact when revelatory events begin to disturb the public.
Ms. Rogers, an avid LGBTQ advocate, community volunteer, and former University of Nebraska basketball star, deserves a great deal of credit for coming forward to set the record straight, and to quell as much of the doubt as she can. Time will tell who is right, but time is also of the essence as the trail of the alleged attackers grows increasingly cold. Many in Lincoln, hundreds of not thousands, do believe Charlie Rogers, and support her full recovery even as they remain watchful that police investigators carry out a thorough, speedy search for the truth in this case, and expeditiously bring these hate criminals to justice.
Oakland, California – As 37-year-old transgender woman Brandy Martell sat behind the wheel of her car early Sunday morning, the men who were talking with her shot her to death. ABC7 reports that two other women in the car with Ms. Martell say the two men who attacked her had approached the car for a conversation. The witnesses told News 7 that the conversation turned angry, and one of the men drew his weapon and shot into the car.
Many in the East Bay progressive community say that the murder was an anti-transgender hate crime. Oakland Occupy Patriarchy, and affiliate of Occupy Oakland, reports that the killer had “become enraged and shot her when he realized she was trans.” A vigil in memory of Ms. Martell was held Sunday night for her grief-stricken friends and the Oakland transgender and transsexual community. SF Weekly reports that one attendee, Holly Fogelbach, expressed the feelings at the vigil in an email message. “This morning,” she wrote, “I can’t shake the pain of what I saw, not for me but for that family and for those friends and for the people who make their living on those corners and will be out there again tonight while Brandi’s [sic] blood is still drying on the pavement.”
Ms. Martell recently worked as an outreach worker for the Tri-City Health Center in Fremont, an agency specializing in assistance to members of the gender variant community. She and her friends were out on the town, having a good time together when the savage attack occurred, according to ABC 7. One of the occupants of the car who declined to be identified because the killer and his accomplice are not yet in custody, strongly refuted any suggestion that Ms. Martell and her friends were “engaged in the sex trade” or were doing anything other than enjoying each other’s company in Downtown Oakland. “Everyone who is out late is not doing something wrong, you know,” she said. Another friend of Ms. Martell, Tiffany Woods, said, “When you don’t provide a space in society for people who you think are the other or different, especially transgender women, especially transgender women of color, when you don’t provide spaces for them to be in a safe environment or a safe space, whether it’s socializing or services, this is what happens.”
Police are not yet investigating this case as a hate crime. No one has been arrested and charged for the shooting as of this writing. Because of the slow pace of mainstream media coverage of this story, many in the transgender community of the East Bay are left feeling “nobody cares.”