Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Miami Beach Police Disciplined for False Charges Against Gay Tourist Who Turned Them In For Beating

Flamingo Park Area of Miami Beach

Miami Beach, FL – “What is happening in Miami Beach?” —  Miami Herald reader Jeffrey Garcia questioned Miami Beach Police Chief  Carlos Noriega after reports that two MBPD officers falsely charged a gay tourist.  The officers were apparently unaware that the tourist was speaking on his cellphone to the 911 line to report them for beating a man on the street.  The large majority of the abusive arrest, shouts by the officers of anti-gay epithets, and their physical assault on gay tourist Harold Strickland were all recorded for the world to hear.  Once they realized the tourist was reporting them, they allegedly made up charges against him that have now been dropped. Under pressure from the ACLU of Florida, both MBPD Officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi have been put on desk duty while the investigation against them proceeds.  The Chief’s assurances of good relations with the Miami Beach LGBT community to the contrary, a flurry of reports are emerging that Miami, Miami Beach, South Beach, and other Dade County locales once considered gay Meccas are no longer safe for queer folk.  The made up charges against Mr. Strickland are the most recent example.  According to Miami Herald reports, Mr. Strickland observed two men beating a person at about 1 a.m. on March 13, 2009 in the Flamingo Park area of Miami Beach.  As Steve Rothaus of the Herald reports, “Strickland called 911 when he saw a man being beaten by two men just outside the park. ‘I saw a guy running and then I saw two, what looked like undercover cops running. And they pushed this guy down on the ground, the one cop did, and the other cop came up as if he was kicking a football … and kicked the guy in the head,” Strickland told a dispatcher during a recorded phone call to 911.”  Rothaus continues his report, “For nearly five minutes, he talked to the dispatcher, who encouraged him to get closer for more detail ‘if it doesn’t put you in any danger.’ A few seconds later, Strickland told the dispatcher: “Now they’re coming after me!””  The officers, Forte and Hazzi, demanded to know what Mr. Strickland was doing.  According to a spokesperson for the ACLU,they then grabbed his cellphone away from him and said, “We know what you’re doing here. We’re sick of all the f—ing fags in the neighborhood.”  Pushing him to the ground, they bound Mr. Strickland’s hands and proceeded to kick and beat him, hurling anti-gay slurs at him.  The ACLU report continues, “While Strickland was on the ground, the officers continued to spew anti-gay epithets. They called him a ‘f—ing fag’ and told him he was going to ‘get it good in jail.”’  Though Mr. Strickland tried to tell the officers about his call to 911, they would not listen.  They arrested him on prowling-and-loitering charges.  A half hour later, Officer Forte in his arrest report charged Mr. Strickland with breaking into six cars in the area.  In a hearing the next morning, a judge advised Mr. Strickland that he would get out of jail quicker if he would plead guilty to misdemeanor charges.  He did, but as soon as he was free, he called the ACLU, and changed his plea to not guilty.  The State Attorney General’s Office has dropped all charges against Mr. Strickland, as well as loitering and resisting arrest charges against Mr. Oscar Mendoza, the man Mr. Strickland saw Officers Forte and Hazzi beat near Flamingo Park.  The ACLU has informed the mayor of Miami Beach that they will sue both the offending officers and the city for the incident.  Robert F. Rosenwald Jr., director of the ACLU Florida’s Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender Advocacy Project, told the Herald’s Steve Rothaus, “This is an issue that we have hoped to address for a long time. Miami Beach Police have for a long time harassed gay men around Flamingo Park without probable cause.”

February 16, 2010 Posted by | ACLU, Anglo Americans, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Florida, gay men, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, police brutality, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stomping and Kicking Violence | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Miami Beach Police Disciplined for False Charges Against Gay Tourist Who Turned Them In For Beating

Bowing to Pressure, Puerto Rican Authorities Ready to Investigate Gay Teen Murder As Hate Crime


Family Mourns at López Mercado Funeral, Nueva Dia photo

Boston – EDGE Boston reports Wednesday that the heinous murder of Puerto Rican gay teen, Jorge Steven López Mercado, will be investigated as an anti-LGBT hate crime.  This is a victory for LGBT activists on the island and on the mainland who have repeatedly called for the police to pursue the case as a hate murder.  Pedro Julio Serrano, point person for LGBT activism in Puerto Rico, drew international attention to the heterosexist and homophobic attitude of police investigators who at the onset of the case, blamed the gay youth for his own death.  Serrano and others blasted police investigator Ángel Rodríguez Colón for stating to the press that gay people who live their lives openly can simply expect bad things to happen to them.  Colón was replaced as overseer of the case.  After meeting with representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, Puerto Rican authorities finally have agreed to conduct the investigation as a hate crime murder.  Pointing out that no LGBT person has ever been tried under the provisions of the Puerto Rican hate crimes statute of 2002, the ACLU argued that it was past time for alleged murderers like Juan A. Martínez Matos, who has confessed to slaughtering 19-year-old López Mercado in an anti-gay rage, to be prosecuted as a bias-motivated perpetrator.  Matos is apparently preparing to plead some form of insanity or ‘gay panic’ defense based on accounts of his childhood.  Nueva Dia reports that Henry Ramirez, ACLU executive in Puerto Rico as well as head of the Legal Clinic at the University of Puerto Rico, convinced Puerto Rico Department of Justice Secretary Antonio Sagardía that the time for deflecting the issue of hate crimes against LGBT people in the Commonwealth is long past.  In a statement to the public, Ramirez said, in part, “The ACLU has tried to get the government to accept its responsibility to investigate cases… that are hate crimes, particularly that of young Jorge Steven López Mercado.  We should not be satisfied with the possibility the federal government will do what our government is not interested in doing; which is to protect every citizen.”  The FBI is monitoring events, and may yet intervene in the case with federal charges.  LGBT advocates have long pointed out that the social climate for LGBT Puerto Ricans is hostile.  Conservative Roman Catholic and Protestant attitudes are well-entrenched and powerful throughout most of the Commonwealth.  Heterosexist and homophobic machismo plays a role in pathologizing LGBT people, as well.  Police attitudes are reflective of these negative cultural assumptions.  The López Mercado case may prove to be a watershed for LGBT advocacy in Puerto Rico, and perhaps other places in the Caribbean.  The manner of his death, decapitation, dismemberment, and partial immolation of his body are hallmarks of homophobic rage and bias-motivated hate crime in such obvious ways as to make a hate crime conclusion unavoidable.  López Mercado’s youth also makes this case notable from a media standpoint.  In many ways, Jorge Steven López Mercado may turn out to be Puerto Rico’s Matthew Shepard.

November 26, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Decapitation and dismemberment, funerals, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Bowing to Pressure, Puerto Rican Authorities Ready to Investigate Gay Teen Murder As Hate Crime


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