Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Bashing in North Texas Leads to Hate Crime Charge

Gay bashing victim Arron Keahey, 24, after teen assailant savagely beat him last Labor Day.

Gay bashing victim Arron Keahey, 24, after teen assailant savagely beat him last Labor Day.

Dallas, Texas – A Springtown man who lied about his encounter with a gay man via social media in September has been charged with a bias-motivated hate crime.  According to a press release by the Dallas Division of the FBI, Brice Johnson, 19, has been charged with “willfully causing bodily injury to a person because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation of that person in a federal criminal complaint.”  On September 2, 2013, 24-year-old gay man, Arron Keahey, connected to Johnson through the social app, MeetMe, being led to believe that Johnson was gay.  The FBI press release details how Johnson led on Keahey to lure him to his home: “During their communications, Johnson said that he was interested in engaging in sexual activity with A.K. He invited A.K. to his home, gave A.K. his cell phone number and address, and they exchanged text messages planning their sexual activity.”

As soon as Keahey arrived at Johnson’s home, the assailant beat Keahey savagely, bound his wrists with an electrical cord, and rolled him into the trunk of a car.  Johnson drove to a friends house with his injured victim bleeding in the trunk.  Upon learning that Johnson had bashed the gay man so severely, Johnson’s friends threatened to call the police themselves if Johnson did not rush Keahey to a hospital.  Johnson drove his victim to a hospital in Fort Worth where he was treated for ten full days for smashed facial bones, lost and broken teeth, and multiple skull fractures.  Johnson concocted a story that he had found Keahey wounded, and being such a Good Samaritan, took him to the Harris Methodist Hospital.  Officers investigating found evidence to the contrary on Johnson’s cell phone where he had recorded a gay slur to refer to Keahey’s contact number.  Johnson then changed his story to say that he was “pulling a prank” on Keahey by the use of the slur to refer to him because of his sexual orientation.  Keahey has sworn that he had never had any sort of sexual or physical contact with his attacker prior to the moment Johnson lashed out at him on the night of the crime.

At the time of the incident, North Texas news media and law officers were reluctant to say that the assault that nearly killed Keahey was a hate crime.  Only after an extensive investigation with the FBI who were called into the case because of the possible anti-gay violence did the Parker County Sheriff’s Department and the Springtown Police Department come to final agreement that Keahey had told the truth all along, and that he had indeed been the victim of a hate crime due to extreme animus against his sexual orientation.  Though it remains unsaid in the FBI press release, the U.S. Department of Justice was able to step into the case investigation because of the provisions of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in October of 2009.  Otherwise, like so many under-investigated attacks against LGBT people, this hate crime would have gone uncharged and unpunished.

Brice Johnson, 19, charged by FBI with bias-motivated hate crime.

Brice Johnson, 19, charged by FBI with bias-motivated hate crime.

According to a report by the Dallas Morning News, one of the major news outlets most reluctant to name anti-gay hate crimes as they demonstrated in this case, it was a Springtown Police Lieutenant, Officer Curtis Stone, who first suggested in his report that the Labor Day beating might be a “possible” hate crime.  WFAA-TV which covered the September attack and interviewed Keahey, spun the story to subtly suggest that the gay man’s use of the MeetMe app had led to the crime.  Such an intimation may be factually accurate, but does not take into account the use of social media daily by millions of heterosexual people to hook up with the reasonable assumption that they will be safe in doing so.  While there is always risk in meeting unknown people through web-based or phone-based media, no one at WFAA has issued a warning that straight men and women who fall victim to violence after using social media are somehow responsible for their own victimization–a suggestion that LGBT hate crimes victims are to blame for violence against them.  The WFAA story ends with Keahey agreeing that he had “learned a painful lesson.”

Johnson appeared in court for the first time on Thursday to be charged with a hate crime.  The statutory maximum penalty is a ten year sentence in a federal penitentiary, and a $250,000 fine.

It took five full months for the Department of Justice and the FBI to firm up the hate crime charge against Johnson that the Springtown Officer had first suggested.  No one in Springtown or Parker County, or North Texas for that matter, wants to have to admit that anti-gay hate crimes take place there.  But they do.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Dallas Morning News, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, MeetMe.com, Slurs and epithets, Social Media and Smartphone Apps, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, WFAA-TV | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Bashing in North Texas Leads to Hate Crime Charge

Gay Man Savagely Beaten With Ball Bat in San Diego

Hillcrest, San Diego's "safest" LGBTQ community, is site of brutal anti-gay attack.

Hillcrest, San Diego’s “safest” LGBTQ community, is site of brutal anti-gay attack.

San Diego, California – A gay man who was brutally beaten with a ball bat across the face in the Hillcrest Neighborhood of San Diego used to feel gay people were safe in San Diego.  No more.  Dwayne Wynn, walking along the sidewalk at midnight Monday was targeted for being gay by three men who pulled up behind him in a truck and ambushed him with a ball bat, crushing his eye socket and smashing his ribs.  10News.com interviewed a tearful Wynn in his home, still obviously shaken by his ordeal. Wynn told News10 that he heard an anti-gay slur shouted behind him, and then was struck full in the face with the bat.  “The last thing I see is a baseball bat being swapped right across the face,” he said.   “I was laying there,” said Wynn. “I was covered in blood and I could hear them literally high fiving each other as they’re walking to their truck.” It all happened so quickly that Wynn could not get an accurate description of the men who assaulted him or the vehicle they were driving.  “I thought I was dead,” he said, trembling from emotion. “I’ve never been that scared in my entire life. I literally thought I was going to die. I thought they were going to kill me. They were beating me that bad.”  

The spree nature of the attack in the heart of Hillcrest, the San Diego neighborhood noted for “tolerance and acceptance” sends a wake up call to the residents of the large, active LGBTQ community there, reminding them that diversity is not the same thing as equality.  “They just didn’t stop and they thought it was a game,” Wynn said, according to EDGE. “They thought it was fun.”

Unfinished Lives author, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, commented that major metropolitan LGBTQ communities have been lulled into a sense of complacency by recent news of marriage equality victories throughout the nation.  “Cities like San Diego pride themselves in diversity and tolerance,” Sprinkle said, “but that doesn’t mean queer folk are safe anywhere they live.  Just because you live in a bubble, you do not live in a culture that accepts and defends your right to exist and be secure from harm.”  Sprinkle, an LGBTQ hate crimes expert, noted that a prominent gay bookstore in Hillcrest was contacted to host a book signing and discussion on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes for the upcoming Martin Luther King Weekend, but the store management declined since the issue did not seem pressing.  “Now, with this gruesome crime in the heart of the ‘gayborhood,’ perhaps anti-gay hate crimes are a bit more real in San Diego,” Sprinkle observed.  “We are thankful complacency has not cost anyone his or her life there,” he said.

The Hillcrest neighborhood, just north of famous Balboa Park, hosts the largest civic celebration in San Diego each year, the Pride Festival, drawing thousands.  Dwayne Wynn used to feel safe and secure in his neighborhood.  Now, he and many others do not, due to a group of homophobic men who are still at large, hunting down gay men.

December 26, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, California, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Hillcrest Neighborhood, LGBTQ, San Diego, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Man Savagely Beaten With Ball Bat in San Diego

3 Gay Oregon Men in Costume Attacked on Hallowe’en Night

Two of the costumes worn by gay bashing victims of Portland, Oregon hate crime attack on Hallowe'en night [KATU photo].

Two of the costumes worn by gay bashing victims of Portland, Oregon hate crime attack on Hallowe’en night [KATU photo].

Portland, Oregon – Three gay men dressed in female costumes were savagely attacked in Portland on Hallowe’en, according to KATU News 2, the ABC news affiliate.  The trio say that the assault was motivated by anti-gay bias, since it was proceeded by a flurry of homophobic epithets. Dustin Miller, Joey Malone, and Curtis Hughes, friends who were looking for Hallowe’en fun, took great care in their drag costumes for the evening, one portraying Snow White and another Anna Nicole Smith–but the fun turned violent when a gang of five men started hurling anti-gay slurs at them as they walked along the Portland waterfront.

The Advocate reports that the gay men were beaten, dragged by their hair, and threatened with a knife.  Malone, who lost a tooth in the attack, said one of the assailants slashed at his stomach and his head with a knife, intending to stab him.  “He swung it at my stomach and then swung it back up at my face,” Malone said.  In a defensive move, Malone kicked off the stiletto heels he was wearing, and used them to back the attackers off.

In their interview with KATU, the three men vividly recalled the chaos and fear they felt as their assailants pressed their assault:

“I was on the ground and they reached over and punched him in the face.”

“All I saw was blood all over his mouth.”

“I was in shock. I felt my tooth go into my tongue and I spit it out onto the ground.”

“All I remember is hearing somebody yell there was a knife.”

“He swung it at my stomach and then swung it back up at my face.”

Hughes, Malone, and Miller recount their harrowing assault.

Hughes, Malone, and Miller recount their harrowing assault.

A passing cyclist aided the victims, and the gang of attackers ran from the scene, leaving the trio scarred, bruised, and shaken, but thankful they were not injured more seriously from the sudden, savage assault.  Hundreds from the community have responded with messages of support and comfort to the victims, and have donated money to help with medical expenses.  In one overwhelming expression of generosity, a local dentist replaced Malone’s broken tooth with a temporary replacement, and pledged to complete the permanent dental replacement later.

Hughes, Malone, and Miller reported the attack as an anti-gay hate crime, but they are not optimistic about anyone being apprehended and charged in the case.  They understand that their costumes were provocative, and that some might not appreciate their taste, but they never imagined that irrational hatred could turn the evening so brutal.  All three gay men are clear, however, that nothing they did provoked the attack, and they are determined to remain strong and proud in their gender presentations and identities.  As Malone told EDGE Boston, they are not going to let this experience change who they are, “Not even for a second.”

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Oregon, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nebraska Straight Hero Stands Up for Gay Friends and Takes a Beating

Ryan Langenegger, straight friend who took a beating standing up for gay friends in Omaha.

Ryan Langenegger, straight friend who took a beating standing up for gay friends in Omaha.

Omaha, Nebraska – A straight friend of two gays stepped up to defend them from harassment by three belligerent men, and received a thrashing for it.  Refusing to retaliate, Ryan Langenegger stood his ground, battered and bloody, and asked his assailants the one question all fearful, homophobic people should have to answer:  “Why?”

KMTV Action News 3 reports that Langenegger, who self-identifies as heterosexual, and his out gay friends, Josh Foo and Jacob Gellinger, had dropped into Omaha’s popular Old Market late Saturday night to grab a bite to eat at PepperJax Grill when the three alleged homophobes approached their table.  Gellinger who was wearing a dress that evening was the initial target of the most vocal of the men, who called him “disgusting” and the others “faggots.”  Attempting to avoid a confrontation, Gellinger, Foo, and Langenegger left the grill, but their three harassers followed them outside and intensified their name-calling.  According to Huffington Post, Langenegger stepped between the belligerents and his friends, saying that they should just leave the gay men alone.  One of the verbal assailants then punched Langenegger so hard it chipped two of his teeth, deeply gashed his brow between his eyes, and left his face a bloody wreck.

Josh Foo wrote up his own account of what happened on his Facebook page, expressing appreciation for the courage of his straight friend.  Referring to a photo of Langenegger taken soon after the assault, Foo posted: “This photo was taken soon after Ryan stood up for my friend and I after being called ‘faggots’,’disgusting’, etc. by a group of men at a restaurant who then followed us outside. We did not provoke this in anyway and also did not retaliate after the assault. Ryan, after being hit, paused and looked at the men and asked ‘Why’? which was the question we were all wondering since we did not do anything wrong besides be ourselves. What Ryan did meant a lot to me and I thank him for standing up for his friends and accepting them for who they are in everyway. He’s a great friend. The world needs more people like him.”  

In an interview with KMTV 3, Langenegger called the entire incident “sad, very sad,” going on the say that he sees this sort of harassment against gay people all the time in Omaha.  Asked if he thought standing up for his friends was worth the beating he took, Langenegger said “yes!” with no hesitation, adding “It just makes no sense this day and age and in Omaha, for all of this stuff to still be happening and out in the streets.”  He hopes that the news of this unprovoked attack will serve as a wake-up call to the LGBTQ community.

Meanwhile, authorities are seeking leads in the case.  In the face of unreasoning hatred, Ryan Langenegger’s one-word question demands an answer on behalf of us all:  “Why?”  May Mr. Langenegger’s tribe increase everywhere, until homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia have vanished from among us.

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Nebraska, Slurs and epithets, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Nebraska Straight Hero Stands Up for Gay Friends and Takes a Beating

Gay Hate Crimes Blog Breaks the Half-Million Visitor Barrier: Unfinished Lives Blog Makes History

Rainbow spanglesDallas, Texas- Unfinishedlivesblog.com, a cyber site of public discourse on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and their victims, broke through the 500,000 visits barrier on October 3.  Begun by a theologian and amateur blogger, the website has developed a world-wide readership and a strong following in the United States.  Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, the Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, hailed the moment as a demonstration of what a few dedicated people can do to shift the public conversation on LGBTQ hate crimes.  “It is humbling to realize how many people read and comment on a project that began as a labor of love,” Dr. Sprinkle said.  “We on the Unfinished Lives Project Team are deeply gratified by the loyalty of our readership.”

Originally intended to support the publication of Dr. Sprinkle’s award-winning book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), Unfinishedlivesblog.com grew far beyond its initial purpose.  Covering the stories of hate crime murder victims, acts of violence against the queer community, and items of political, theological and cultural interest affecting the LGBTQ community, the blog has logged over 580 stories and posts since its inception in June 2008. Ryan Valentine, Deputy Director of the Texas Freedom Network and an early endorser of the blog, voiced his continuing appreciation of the ongoing work of the website and the Unfinished Lives Project:

“I am writing to commend – in the highest possible terms – Dr. Stephen Sprinkle and his Unfinished Lives project. My support springs from the conviction that his work calling attention to the “slow-rolling holocaust” of LGBT hate crimes in this country has a particular urgency in the struggle for civil rights in contemporary America. As society and the media turn a blind eye, someone must tell these stories.”  

In response to a post criticizing anti-gay hazing in colleges and universities, an anonymous commentator thanked the Unfinished Lives Project for aiding a social advocacy group in their justice work:  “We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on. You’ve performed a formidable activity and our entire group will probably be grateful to you.”  

Ryan Keith Skipper

Ryan Keith Skipper

Perhaps most moving have been the messages of support for the work of this site from the parents and loved ones of hate crimes victims.  In response to a memorial post for Ryan Keith Skipper (1981 – 2007), a gay man brutally murdered in Polk County, Florida, his stepfather, Lynn Mulder, posted this note: “Ryan had overcome many obstacles in his life and reconciled many conflicts that our society placed in his path. He was comfortable with who he was and as his parents we were proud of that accomplishment. Ryan has not been forgotten and we still love him. Thank you all for remembering and caring, especially on his birthday.”  Lynn and Pat Mulder have become two of the most passionate and effective advocates for LGBTQ youth in America.

“I know that the work of Unfinished Lives Blog is far from over,” Sprinkle said.  “The numbers of LGBTQ hate crimes murders have reached historic highs every year since 2009.  An epidemic of deadly violence is claiming the lives of transgender youth, especially m to f trans youth of color, throughout the United States.  Bullying in schools has led to untold numbers of desperate acts on the part of LGBTQ school-aged youth, as well.  And the recent alarming uptick in anti-gay acts of violence in New York City may be pointing to an ominous trend that will spread throughout the nation.”  After a pause to collect himself, Sprinkle said, “We cannot suspend, even for a moment, our efforts for full justice and equality for queer folk everywhere.  Lives depend on it.”  

So, for Sprinkle and the volunteer Unfinished Lives Project Team, a half-million visitors to this labor-of-love site is a hallmark of a work for Justice-sake that cannot rest–but along the way, the Team says a hearty “Thank You!” to every reader of this blogsite, now and in the days and years to come!

October 3, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ Community, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Unfinished Lives Book, Unfinished Lives Project, Unfinishedlivesblog.com | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Man Charged with Hate Crime in Brutal Colorado Gay Beating

Jared Olson, victim of anti-gay hate crime, before and after the Labor Day Weekend assault.

Jared Olson, victim of anti-gay hate crime, before and after the Labor Day Weekend assault.

Denver, Colorado – After several weeks, a 20-year-old suspect in the savage beating of an openly gay man outside a hookah lounge has been formally charged with an anti-gay hate crime.  Tilo Sandoval, who turned himself in to police for attacking 23-year-old Jared Olson, was charged Thursday with second-degree assault, third-degree assault and bias-motivated crime, according to 9News.com.

The assault took place around 2 a.m. on September 2 outside Denver’s popular Sam’s Hookah Lounge at the corner of Alameda Avenue and Zuni Street.  Olson told police that he and his friends left the lounge to get in their car when two men, one of them Sandoval, approached them, cursing them and shouting anti-gay slurs.  Olson says that Sandoval yanked open the car door, yelling epithets, and hit him so hard that it dislodged some of his teeth.  KDVR.com reports Olsen’s account of what happened:  “They were just cussing at us and slurring, then one guy walked to my door and opened it and hit me in the face,” Olsen said. “We drove off right after that.”  Besides losing and chipping his teeth, Olson’s face sustained severe injuries which, though not life-threatening, will likely require plastic and reconstructive surgery. The cost of the surgery to set his face right again may cost as much as $50,000–a health care crisis for Olson who does not have insurance to cover the expenses. Commenting on the attack on her son, Melody Olson told KDVR, “It’s so disheartening and disgusting that anyone would do that to anybody. Not just my child, but anybody’s. And it’s just because they don’t approve of (their sexual orientation).”  

The severity of his wounds shocked Olson, he told 7News.  “I didn’t think that I looked that bad, until my mother had taken the picture and shown me. I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. I thought people were more sensible than that in this day in age,” he said. “I just remember looking over, and looking up at the guy and getting hit square in the face right here. And you can clearly tell my nose is like over here,” said Olson.

Tilo Sandoval, charged with bias motivated hate crime against Olson.

Tilo Sandoval, charged with bias motivated hate crime against Olson.

Scott Levin, Mountain States Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed his dismay and outrage over the attack against Olson.  In a prepared statement, Levin said:  “The Anti-Defamation League is disheartened to learn of this tragic instance where a victim was allegedly targeted because of his sexual orientation. We applaud law enforcement officials for taking quick and decisive action to investigate whether this was a bias-motivated attack, and if the evidence supports it, we urge them to prosecute this crime to the full extent permitted under Colorado’s hate crimes law.”

Levin went on to say, “Hate crimes have an impact far beyond the individual victim of the crime. When a victim is chosen because of his or her sexual orientation, other members of that group feel unsafe and unwelcome. Hate crimes resonate throughout the victim’s community and threaten the safety and well-being of every member of that group. ADL calls upon the Denver community to speak out loudly against hate crimes and declare Denver no place for hate.”

Sandoval has been released on $30,000 bond. While the hate crimes charges are in place now, it will be up the Denver District Attorney to determine how to prosecute the case, and whether this particular situation meets the criteria of the Colorado Bias Crimes Law.

September 26, 2013 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Colorado, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latinos, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Homophobic Gang Member Sentenced in NYC Anti-Gay Torture Case

Nelson Falu, 20-year-old member of Latin King Goonies, sentenced for sexually torturing three victims.  Six more gang members remain to be sentenced.

Nelson Falu, 20-year-old member of Latin King Goonies, sentenced for sexually torturing three victims. Six more gang members remain to be sentenced.

New York City, New York – Nelson Falu, 20, was sentenced by the Bronx Supreme Court to seven years in prison for his role in a horrendous 2010 gay torture case that rocked the Big Apple for weeks.  Falu is the first of eight Latin King Goonies to face justice for his role in the sexual torture of three persons the gang believed to be gay.  According to Gay Star News, Prosecutor Theresa Gottlieb told the court on August 9 that Falu’s victims would rather have a plea bargain settle the issue rather than be forced to “relive” the horrors they endured at the hands of the Goonies in October 2010.

Falu and seven other Goonies tortured a 17-year-old gang recruit they assumed was gay, and then lured another 17-year-old and a 30-year-old man they assumed was having gay sex with the teens into their Bronx safe house that served as a makeshift dungeon, where they were sexually tortured, as well.  As reported by Unfinishedlivesblog.com, the Goonies fell upon their victims like wolves, sodomizing one of the 17-year-olds with the wooden handle of a toilet plunger, solely because they suspected them of being gay.  The victims were berated with homophobic slurs and burned with cigarettes, beaten with chains, and repeatedly sodomized with a wooden bat for hours. The suspects were arrested and charged with with sodomy, abduction, imprisonment, menacing, assault, and robbery as bias motivated hate crimes.

LGBTQ Nation quoted Mayor Michael Bloomberg as saying at the time of the arrests of the Goonies, “Like many New Yorkers, I was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes and saddened by the anti-gay bias that contributed to them. The heartless men who committed these crimes should know that their fellow New Yorkers will not tolerate their vicious acts, or the hatred that fuels them.”  

Falu, who was 18 at the time of his crimes, and two other gang members accepted plea deals in June.  It remains to be seen if the five others will accept plea bargains, or face trial in court.

August 18, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bronx, Gang violence, gay bashing, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latin King Goonies, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York, New York City, Slurs and epithets, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Homophobic Gang Member Sentenced in NYC Anti-Gay Torture Case

Gay Couple Attacked in Heart of Gay-Friendly New York Neighborhood

NYPD sketches of suspects in Wednesday's attack on a gay couple in Chelsea.

NYPD sketches of suspects in Wednesday’s attack on a gay couple in Chelsea.

BREAKING NEWS: New York City, New York – Police have released sketches of two principle attackers who savagely assaulted a gay couple as they walked holding hands in Chelsea, one of the gay-friendliest sections of the Big Apple.  The suspects, according to CBS Local, are described by the NYPD as a black man wearing a white tee shirt, and a younger Hispanic male, probably in the 16 to 20 year old range, sporting tattoos on his arms.  The attack is being investigated as a bias-motivated hate crime by New York Police Department’s Hate Crime Task Force as part of the wave of murder and assault taking place against LGBTQ people in New York this spring and summer.

Wednesday, August 14, shortly after midnight, Peter Notman, 53, and Michael Felenchak, 27, left the Chelsea Bowtie Cinemas on 23rd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues holding hands.  As they walked along after turning down 24th Street, a two men shouting anti-gay slurs attacked them.  Four other men joined in the attack on the couple, according to Huffington Post coverage of the incident.  Notman said to CBS TV reporters, “It was six of them against the two of us. Typical of the cowards they are.”

One of the assailants used brass knuckles to strike the pair, and both Notman and Felenchak required hospitalization at Beth Israel Hospital, spending the entire night in the emergency room.  Notman said, “I was hit with brass knuckles down the side of my face, and I had contusions; had to have an MRI, and Michael received several stitches in his mouth where they punched us.”  Felechak required seven stitches to close his wounds.

By Thursday morning, the couple were passing out fliers and appearing before the media with local politicians to protest this latest hate crime attack against LGBTQ people.  “We have our complete faith in the NYPD — they are great guys; they’re amazing. They’re going to find the guys,” Felenchak said.

Micheal Felenchak (l) and Peter Notman (r), attacked while holding hands.

Micheal Felenchak (l) and Peter Notman (r), attacked while holding hands.

Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio, both candidates in the hotly contested New York Mayor’s race, spoke out against the rise in violence against LGBTQ people in the very city that gave birth to the modern human rights movement in Greenwich Village, not far from the site of this latest outrage against LGBTQ dignity.  “I am appalled by reports that two men were senselessly beaten in Chelsea simply because they were perceived to be gay,” Council Speaker Quinn said. “The cowardly individuals who committed this crime do not represent New Yorkers and our community will not be cowed by such violence. New York City’s greatest strength is our diversity, and we will not stand for attacks against anyone, for any reason.”  NYC Public Advocate de Blasio issued his statement to Huffington Post:  “We won’t let hate work its way into our communities. LGBTQ New Yorkers have the right to walk any street in this city free from violence or intimidation. We have to meet any bias attack against the LGBTQ community with aggressive action—both in our condemnation, and in our police response. I applaud the NYPD for doing exactly that. The community needs to know the City will meet its fundamental obligation to protect its people.”

Meanwhile, residents of Chelsea were still recovering from the news that their once highly touted gay-friendly neighborhood was no longer a safe place for gay men and lesbians to live open lives without fear.  Upper West Side resident, Corbin Reid told CBS New York, “A lot of homosexuals live here, and they feel safe here and I think they live here because they feel a sense of community. So to get attacked here is definitely disheartening, and it’s like getting attacked in your own home.” Chelseaite John Flippen said, “I suddenly have to be very aware of what I’m doing and restraining myself from anything that might draw attention and that’s no way to live. I didn’t come to Chelsea to live that way.”  Toby Berkowitz, another Chelsea resident, chimed in, “Chelsea of all places? Really? You’re here because it’s a very homogenized mix of people. We love that. But if you don’t feel safe in front of your local movie theater, where would you?”  

There have been no arrests as of press time today.  The search for the gay bashers continues in America’s largest city, where anti-LGBTQ attacks are up 70 per cent over last year.

Wilson Cruz, national spokesperson for GLAAD, summed up the outrage of the LGBTQ activist community over this latest attack, saying, “The rising number of anti-LGBT attacks around the country is staggering and needs to be addressed immediately. Nobody should have to fear simply walking down a street in their own neighborhood because of who they are.”  

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bill de Blasio, Chelsea, Christine Quinn, gay bashing, gay men, GLAAD, GLBTQ, Greenwich Village, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, New York Police Department (NYPD), Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Couple Attacked in Heart of Gay-Friendly New York Neighborhood

Gay Texas Hate Crime Victim Appeals for Help…But Where’s the Community?

Jimmy Lee Dean, after the brutal July 2008 hate crime attack that nearly took his life.

Jimmy Lee Dean, after the brutal July 2008 hate crime attack that nearly took his life.

Dallas, Texas – Jimmy Lee Dean deserves help from the North Texas LGBTQ community.  In July 2008, he was brutally attacked by two young men bent on robbing and savaging a gay man in the storied Cedar Springs neighborhood.  The heroic act of bouncers from a nearby bar, and a local passerby saved Jimmy Lee from dying, then and there.   But the injuries he sustained that night ruined his life.

Now, his face a wreck from failed surgeries, Jimmy Lee Dean has reached out to the LGBTQ community in his longtime Dallas home.  But despite coverage by the Dallas Voice commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the attack that nearly stole his life away, and an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money to set his ravaged face right again, only three anonymous funders have risen to the challenge, and reached out to Jimmy Lee.  What is going on here?  Besides the usual American aversion to remembering difficult events for longer than a news cycle, or perhaps background problems with this particular case-gone-cold, could there be something else preventing LGBTQ people from responding positively to the pleas of a home-grown hate crime victim who barely escaped with his life?

Jimmy Lee tells the story of his need on the Indiegogo campaign home page he originated two weeks ago.  Here is his statement, as he wrote it, in its entirety:

“On July 17, 2008 I was the victim of a hate crime in Dallas, Texas. Through the kind act of everyday people like you, I did not die that night. The criminals were stopped, prosecuted and the good people of Texas provided $50,00.00 from their crime victims fund to repair my physical damages and any phycological [sic] help that might be needed.

“Problems started when I left Parkland County Hospital intensive care unit. Up to that point everything seemed to be going ok. Then After some 16 visits to the Oral Surgery Clinic, 2 surgeries and one attempted surgery that never took place and 27 visits to Parkland crisis center I am in the same phycical [sic] situation as at the crime scene.

“Work done in the second surgery at Parkland Hospital has all come undone. My jaw and cheek bone are no longer attached. Teeth have never been dealt with. No one has followed up on my broken back. I have headaces [sic] every other day. My eyes are having problems. I walk with a causious gate [sic]. I get light headed all the time. I don’t reallly go anywere because of the facial disfigurments and the way I look when I eat.

“I never asked for what happend. It could have been anyone of us at that spot at that time.

“My dreams and identity are gone along with my alillity [sic] to smell, but maybe there are medical procedures that might restore me to a point where I can have some kind of a normal life.”

The anti-gay hate crime attack on Jimmy Lee in the heart of the “Gayborhood” was an outrage.  The two defendants in the case, Jonathan Gunter and Bobby Singleton, were brought to justice.  Gunter received a 30 year sentence, and Singleton got 70 years.  Jimmy Lee Dean moved away from Dallas to try and put his life back together, but his orphaned story has largely been unremembered and unattended, despite the efforts of a few LGBT activists who went court in support of Jimmy Lee, and the efforts of the Dallas Voice editors and staff.

Who knows if Jimmy Lee’s assailants will serve their whole sentences–sentences achieved by the Dallas D.A.’s Office without hate crime enhancements for the usual reasons that hate crimes are hard to prove in Texas?  But what Jimmy Lee is asking for is something more tangible than answers to opaque questions of law and right and wrong.  He is asking for financial help.  And, as of this writing, only three donors out of the thousands and thousands of queer folk in North Texas have done anything.  The Indiegogo fund stands at $100.00.

Shaming, of course, does little or no good.  But the broader question behind the non-response to the pleas of a bona fide hate crimes survivor is whether there is anything like an LGBTQ community to appeal to in the first place?  Has the loose association of interest groups and tavern patrons, the merchants and real estate developers in Dallas who are happy to claim to be progressive LGBTQ community members when it suits their self-interest, actually never matured into a community at all?  Is the reason for the non-response to the call of a former member of the Gayborhood for help actually because there was no real LGBTQ community in Dallas to begin with?  And, what are the signs that a gathering of people on the margins of heterosexual society have begun to attain the seriousness and sacrifice for their own people that denotes a community of character and concern?

Jimmy Lee Dean now (Indiegogo Campaign page image).

Jimmy Lee Dean now (Indiegogo Campaign page image).

Whether Jimmy Lee’s appeal finds its way into the generous heart of queer Texans remains to be seen.  LGBTQ Texans are an able bunch, once they are motivated. But hate crimes victims are at least one important litmus test of a true community, as African Americans, Jews, and Buddhist commemorators of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can attest from their own histories of struggle and resistance.  A community begins to become serious and exist in the real world when it starts to take care of its own whenever they meet crisis and disaster.  Until then, it is a fair-weather association, at best.

Anyone wishing to contribute to Jimmy Lee Dean’s appeal can read more and donate here.

~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

August 8, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Dallas Voice, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Jimmy Lee Dean, LGBTQ, LGBTQ Community, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Texas Hate Crime Victim Appeals for Help…But Where’s the Community?

Gay Seattle Man Brutally Attacked by Mob; Police Call Bashing “A Hate Crime”

Jason Jacobs, gay 37-year-old, attacked in his own neighborhood.

Jason Jacobs, gay 37-year-old, attacked in his own neighborhood.

Seattle, Washington – A 37-year-old gay man was attacked early Monday morning by a gang of women and men who yelled anti-gay slurs as they ran him down in the gay-friendly Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  KOMO News 4 reports that police are calling the attack a bias-driven hate crime.

Jason Jacobs told reporters and the Seattle Police Department that he was walking down the street in his own neighborhood a bit past midnight on Monday when two women and three men called out slurs about his sexual orientation, chased him down, and assaulted him with fists and kicks until he lay unconscious with a fractured eye socket, a broken nose,  a major concussion, and two cracked ribs.  Jacobs says he did not get a good look at his assailants, but knows other witnesses did–if they will only come forward.  The attack took place in front of a Starbucks Coffee Shop, but only one witness has come forward to file a report with the SPD.  Jacobs’ cries for help drew the witness to respond out of a feeling that, if he were subjected to such an attack, he would want someone to reach out to him.   The witness stayed with Jacobs until an ambulance arrived to transport him to a local hospital.

Jacobs says that his pink shirt and shoes may have first attracted the attention of the gang of women and men, the Huffington Post reports.  “Hopefully somebody saw something,” Jacobs told KIRO News. “Hopefully we can get some justice.”  On Tuesday, he returned to the scene of his attack, seeking to encourage others to come forward and help police with the investigation.  Looking at the stains of his own blood still on the sidewalk, Jacobs says that he has lost the feeling of safety and security he once had in the Capitol Hill area.

Seattle Police have assigned this case to their bias crimes division.  In their report, investigators describe the three men suspected of the crime as being in their 20s and of “unknown race,” while the two women were described as “Hispanics” with dark hair.  As of this writing, no arrests have been made.

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Washington State | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Seattle Man Brutally Attacked by Mob; Police Call Bashing “A Hate Crime”

%d bloggers like this: