Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Couple Brutally Attacked in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – A gay couple was bashed by three men on the sidewalk near their home early on Sunday morning in NE D.C.  Michael Joel Hall (l), a popular yoga instructor in the District, and his partner, Michael Roike (r), were ambushed by three men, according to MYFOXDC.  The couple had been driven to their neighborhood at about 2 a.m. and were walking to their home on 3rd and T Streets NE when the attack materialized seemingly out of nowhere. Investigators say that the three bashers were yelling anti-gay slurs as they pressed their assault against the couple. Police are investigating the case as a probable anti-gay hate crime.

Both Hall and Roike were injured in the assault.  Hall’s injuries were by far the most severe, suffering a broken cheek bone and fractured face where one of the assailants struck him.  Roike’s mother says that the couple would surely have been killed if passers-by had not shouted at the attackers and rushed to the scene.  The thugs escaped with a cell phone belonging to one of the victims. Hall was rushed to Howard University Hospital where he underwent surgery to repair his shattered face on Monday.

Because Hall has no health insurance and lost his apartment in a recent fire, friends in the yoga community and Hall’s students have created a Facebook page, “Friends of Michael Joel Hall and Michael Roike,”  and established a fund to help defray his medical expenses. The response of the community has been heartening to the couple.  Cobalt/30 degrees is hosting a fundraiser for Hall on Thursday evening, and Flow Yoga in Logan Circle is hosting a “In the Name of Love” fundraiser on Friday night. The Facebook page has details about both these events and the MJH Fund on PayPal.

A local blog, dcist, reports that this hate crime attack is part of a disturbing pattern in the nation’s capital.  Numbers of anti-gay hate crimes have spiked alarmingly in recent months.  Of the 57 confirmed hate crime attacks in the District in 2011, 37 of them targeted LGBTQ people.  In March of this year, hundreds of members of the gay community and straight allies marched from Columbia Heights to Georgia Avenue to draw attention the issue and demand an end to the senseless violence.  As of this writing, there is no report of an arrest in the case.

July 24, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Couple Brutally Attacked in D.C.

Marine Murdered in Possible Anti-Gay Hate Crime

Philip Bushong, 23, called homophobic slur and stabbed to death by a fellow U.S. Marine

Washington, D.C. – A U.S. Marine was attacked and stabbed through the heart by a fellow Marine who allegedly ignited the fight by calling him an anti-gay slur.  Philip Bushong, 23, was fatally stabbed with a pocket knife on Saturday in the Barracks Row section of D.C. by 20-year-old Michael Poth, according to reports in WTNH News. Gravely wounded, Bushong was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died about an hour later. The stabbing took place near the Marine Barracks and the home of the U.S. Marines Commandant–a bustling section of the U.S. Capitol with shops, restaurants, and residences that is normally thought to be safe because of its proximity to the military barracks.

Witnesses told DC police that Poth called Bushong the homophobic slur as the two Marines passed each other on the sidewalk at about 2:40 a.m., according to the Washington Post.  Bushong, who apparently had never met Poth, took exception to the slur, and the fight erupted in front of a sporting goods store. The DC Metro Police are taking the lead on the investigation of Bushong’s murder, assisted by the Naval Crime Investigative Service.  Poth was charged Monday with second degree murder, according to WJLA News 7. Bail was denied at the request of representatives of the Marine Corps, and Poth will go to court the next time on May 15. Defense attorneys allege self-defense on their client’s part. When Poth was arrested by Marine guards and told that Bushong was on his way to the hospital, he allegedly told them, “Good! I hope he dies!” Carolyn Eaves, a worker a block away from the scene of the crime, told News 7, “Sad. Two families… now destroyed “We have to learn not to call people names, you know. Got to be on our Ps and Qs all the time. Sad.”

Because of the report of the homophobic slur, hate crimes protocols are being observed in the investigation, and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the Metro Police have been brought in.  The Advocate reports that OutServe, the first openly gay and lesbian active duty military advocacy organization in the nation, issued a statement on the killing over the weekend.  In part, the statement reads: “We are troubled by the specter that this might have been a hate crime; if so, we anticipate the authorities will pursue it to the fullest extent of the law. This is particularly upsetting since, overall, gay and lesbian Marines have been accepted and treated equally in the force since repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We look forward to the results of a swift and thorough investigation of this tragic incident.” 

Bushong, a Marine since 2007, was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  A native of Enfield, Connecticut, he was described by friends and fellow Marines as a fun-loving person who enjoyed his life. Funeral arrangements in Connecticut have not been released to the public at the time of this report.

Hate speech has the capacity to inflame young men, in particular. What prompted one Marine to sling an anti-gay epithet at the other is not known, but neither young man is believed to be gay. The language of violence attached to homophobia is still strong enough to infuriate people like no other speech in our time, and turn otherwise sensible people into combatants, as in this awful case in the nation’s capitol. The Marines have traditionally been felt to have a higher degree of homophobia than the other armed forces, but recent accounts seemed to indicate that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was going well in the Corps. It seems there is much work left to do, however, until young men like these no longer feel that accusations of homosexuality are intolerable to their manhood.

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Connecticut, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), OutServe, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, U.S. Marines, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Marine Murdered in Possible Anti-Gay Hate Crime

Gay Man Shot at DC IHOP; Female Suspect Arrested for Possible Hate Crime

24-hr. IHOP Restaurant in Columbia Heights where a gay man was gunned down in a possible hate crime March 11.

Columbia Heights, District of Columbia – Metro Police announced Monday that a woman has been arrested for the shooting of a gay man in a local IHOP restaurant.  DC Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and DC Mayor Vincent Gray told reporters that LaShawn Carson, 27, resident of the District, has been arrested for the March 11 shooting in what is being called an anti-gay hate crime.  The Washington Times reports that investigating officers say anti-gay epithets were used by the suspect during the attack, leading police to investigate the shooting as a possible hate crime.  Two groups of customers engaged in a disturbance at approximately 6:30 a.m. on the 11th at the Columbia Heights IHOP leading to blows being exchanged and water glasses being thrown.  Carson was hit in the face in the altercation, backed away, and then opened fire inside the restaurant, yelling epithets at her victim, according to CBS DC.   The victim survived, but still has a bullet lodged in his liver.

DC Council Member for District 1, Democrat Jim Blair, commenting on Carson’s arrest, said, “What a relief this is. This was a horrendous hate crime that singled someone out on the perception they were part of a particular group.”  The suspect was arraigned on Monday, and will have a preliminary hearing on Thursday. Until authorities can determine if they wish to charge Carson with a hate crime, she is being held without bond.  At present, she has been charged with aggravated assault while armed.   A surveillance video confirmed who fired the shot.  Other persons have been identified in the video, but at no one else has been arrested in connection with the possible hate shooting.  Officials are assuring the public that this incident has no relationship with the rash of physical violence against DC gays, lesbians, and transgender persons.

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, gay men, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), Slurs and epithets, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Man Shot at DC IHOP; Female Suspect Arrested for Possible Hate Crime

Off Duty D.C. Policeman Fires into Transwomen’s Car, Injuring Three

Officer Kenneth Furr appears in court to answer charges of shooting into transgender women's car (Bill Hennessy drawing).

Washington, D. C. – A veteran D.C. cop has been arrested for allegedly pumping five shots into a car occupied by transgender women.  Three people were wounded by the gunfire. The five occupants of the vehicle included three transgender women, and two male friends.  The officer, 47-year-old Kenneth Furr, is a 21-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police.  He is being held pending a hearing.

The shooting incident was sparked by a confrontation at a CVS Pharmacy on 4th and Massachusetts Avenue early on the morning of August 26.  According to court documents, Furr approached one of the transwomen, soliciting her for sex.  After she refused, she and her companions got in their car and drove away.  Details are contested at this point in the story, but the most often discussed account is as follows: Furr was angered by the refusal, and raced in his vehicle to head them off.  Furr blocked the path of the victims’ car with his Cadillac, pointing his gun at the driver, who ducked as his car collided with the parked Cadillac. Officer Furr then leaped on the hood of their Chrysler 300, and shouted “I’m ‘a gonna kill all of you!” as he fired his weapon five times through the Chrysler’s windshield.  Two transwomen were wounded, and one of their friends, according to reports from NBC Washington.  The front-seat passenger suffered multiple gunshot wounds, though none of them were determined to be “life-threatening,” according to a police report.

Other Metro Police responded to the sound of the car crash and the shots.  The police report says that they found the off-duty officer standing on the hood of the victim’s vehicle with his pistol out.  They ordered him to drop the weapon.  Furr is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, and driving while intoxicated.  His blood alcohol content was in excess of 0.15, determined by a breath test.

Police were quick to issue a statement to the press on Friday morning: “Preliminary investigation reveals a confrontation occurred involving an off-duty officer and five other individuals, some of which are members of the transgender community. The officer discharged a handgun and one person was shot and sustained non-life threatening injuries.”  The police statement goes on to say, “Two other individuals involved in the incident sustained injuries which are also non-life threatening. The nature of those injuries is under investigation to determine their cause.” 

Reaction from the transgender activist community was also swift.  The Washington Blade reports that D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, “shocked” by the incident, joined local LGBT activists on Friday to express concern and solidarity for the victims, and for the transgender community of the District.  A series of violent attacks on transgender women,especially transgender women of color, have plagued the District for two years.  Relations between the Metropolitan Police and the transgender community have been strained by perceptions that the MPD has not served or protected the community well.  The actions of Officer Furr have further aggravated the troubles, with some transgender activists openly declaring that they expect nothing to change with the police, no matter what they do.  Mayor Gray issued a statement praising the LGBT community, and saying, “I am deeply troubled by the apparent circumstances surrounding this incident and await the results of a full MPD investigation. These are serious charges, and they are particularly disturbing to have been brought against one who is sworn to protect and serve.”  Leaders from Transgender Health Empowerment and the D.C. Trans Coalition have pledged to help the police with the investigation.

September 10, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C., women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Off Duty D.C. Policeman Fires into Transwomen’s Car, Injuring Three

Police Refusing to Report Anti-Lesbian Hate Crime Could Lose Their Jobs

Washington, D.C. – When several Metropolitan Police refused to report a brutal attack against five lesbians in the District of Columbia, they had no idea how big a mistake they were making, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch.  Brushing off the attack by two males who shouted anti-lesbian epithets as they assaulted the women, the police even threatened to arrest the victims because “they didn’t know how to act.”  Now, these officers are under investigation themselves. The investigation could take as long as four months. They could face suspension, punishment, and even termination of their jobs with loss of pension benefits.  Four police cruisers with seven officers responded to a 911 emergency call outside the Columbia Heights Metro station in the early morning hours of July 30.  Two men had beaten their lesbian victims, and a third man accompanying the assailants stood by capturing video of assault on his cell phone. When the lesbians reported the attack to the police, the officers dismissed the violence.  Though the police had restrained one of the assailants, they just let him go. Hatewatch has learned that the mother of one of the victims called the Metro Police to complain about the officers’ behavior.  Then, on August 1, the D.C. LGBT liaison unit filed a report on the incident as a hate crime.

Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), a local LGBTQ activist group, met with D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier to demand more rigorous protection of the queer community in Washington.  The chief seemed inclined to act on the concerns of the group, according to GLOV spokesperson, A.J. Singletary.  D.C. gays, lesbians, and transgender persons, especially those from racial/ethnic minority groups, have suffered an increasing number of violent attacks in recent years, most notably the murders of four transgender women of color, two of them teenagers.

The once strong and effective gay and lesbian liaison unit of the Metro Police Department was decimated by budgetary cuts three years ago.  Its officers were distributed among police units throughout the city, rather than working together as a discreet group.  Training in LGBTQ sensitivity for the police has been severely diminished, as well, according to Singletary.  The anecdotal result has been an increase of attacks on queer folk, and many reported incidents where police have not even bothered to file hate crime reports when they have occurred. GLOV has asked Chief Lanier to beef up the number and quality of LGBT officers on the force, and to reinstate rigorous LGBTQ training for all members of the Metropolitan Police.  Singletary reports that this latest act of neglect has spurred Chief Lanier to take charges against the police seriously, and to make some of the changes activists in the LGBTQ community are asking for.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has published study results showing that the LGBTQ community is beset by more violence, especially of an extreme nature, than any other community of persons in the United States. Compared to its rank in the population at large, according to the study, an LGBTQ person is 8.3 times more likely to be the victim of a violent hate crime than others in this country.

August 11, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, Gays and Lesbian Opposing Violence, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Southern Poverty Law Center, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C., women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Police Refusing to Report Anti-Lesbian Hate Crime Could Lose Their Jobs


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