Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

The Long Ordeal of Craig Cohen

Fort Lauderdale. Florida – Over a year ago, Craig Cohen, 47, “the little guy with a big heart,” lost his life to a gay-bashing.  He died October 7, 2009 in a coma from complications suffered from the fatal attack that crushed his skull in Oak Park on April 6. Since the night of his assault, Cohen never regained consciousness.  Surrounded by his human family and friends, and the rescue animals who were his beloved “kids,”  gentle Craig breathed his last in a hospice room. Six brain surgeries failed.  The awful vigil by his bedside had come to a close.  But the Ordeal of Craig Cohen is far from over. The four young men accused of attacking him, Pargu Leandro, 25, Victor Gonzalez, 21, Brandon Edwards, 19, and Chad Olah, 18, are still in the Broward Sheriff’s Main Jail, charged with first-degree murder.  The courts, according to fresh reports on the Facebook honor site, “Love for Craig Cohen,” are moving at a glacial pace, plagued by motions to postpone hearings.  Nothing can be resolved until two things are finally accomplished: First, the trials must bring to light the facts and the motives that prompted these four suspects to target Cohen and a second victim, David Villanova, and brutally beat these two gay men who were each alone and vulnerable on a dark street.  The quartet are charged with stomping in Cohen’s face and skull, crushing his facial bones, blinding him, leaving him paralyzed and severely brain damaged.  Reports suggest that the suspects took turns kicking him, laughing about what they were doing to the little man.  The Broward Sheriff’s Office has considered this attack a robbery, and has investigated it that way, although the alleged robbers never stole a thing from Cohen.  His Facebook friends write, “when Craig was found and taken to Broward General, he had his wallet, credit cards, cash and his watch.”  Apparently one of the attackers kicked his cell phone out of his hand as he was trying to call 911.  According to a report given to the Broward Palm Beach New Times, one of the bashers lifted the phone and gave it to a homeless man down the street.  As the informant said to BPBT, that “doesn’t sound like a robbery to me.” From the beginning, his friends have firmly believed that their beloved Craig was killed because he was gay.  Second, the cause Craig Cohen dedicated his life to must be supported: his determination to provide shelter and a home for animals who lost their human parents due to illness or sudden death. Craig was a long-time senior employee of the school board.  He had barely a year to go before he could retire with 25 years under his belt, and open the shelter of his dreams.  Since he was a boy, Craig had loved and rescued animals.  He had purchased a tract of land out in the country in northern Florida for his animal sanctuary.  Craig left behind his dog Eddie and his five indoor cats, orphaned by his death, just as the many pets left behind after the deaths of other human parents had been.  Eddie was adopted by close friends.  The cats, some of them 14 years old, were harder to place.  The Craig Cohen Animal Advocacy Project (CCAAP), http://www.petprojectforpets.org, has been founded in Craig’s memory to find new parents for orphaned animals, in fulfillment of this gentle gay man’s dream.  The LGBT community of Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale miss Craig Cohen.  So do the food banks, the homeless shelters, and the animal protection agencies he worked so tirelessly to support.  Craig will have his day in court, many days to come, it seems.  Craig’s cause has found and will continue to find support among those who loved him, and those of us who have come to admire the “little guy with the big heart.”  But his ordeal will not be over until senseless attacks against LGBT people in Florida and around the nation finally cease, and in their place we finally learn to treat each other at least as mammals, and not as things.

In the hospice, with his beloved Eddie

May 7, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Florida, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


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