Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Straight South Dakotan Assaulted for Defending Gay People

Drew Bartscher, 27, straight ally who spoke out against anti-gay hate speech, and was beaten because of it.

Drew Bartscher, 27, straight ally who spoke out against anti-gay hate speech, and was beaten because of it.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota – A straight man politely asked a couple outside a community tavern not to use anti-gay epithets in regard to gay people, and got punched in the face for his trouble. 27-year-old Drew Bartscher was out Saturday night, September 13, for a good time with friends when he overheard a couple disparaging gay people outside Wiley’s Tavern, according to KSFY ABC News. As Bartscher, a father of two little girls, told KSFY, “There was a couple behind me, and I heard a woman behind me. I heard this woman remark to apparently her boyfriend. I don’t know how to say it on-the-air. She said these ‘f-ing f-words,’ referring to homosexuals.” That is when Bartscher asked the couple courteously not to use language like that to describe gay people. The way he recalls it is that he said to the woman, “You really shouldn’t call anybody the f-word, that’s rude.” As he turned to go about his business, the woman’s boyfriend growled, “What the ‘f’ did you say to my girlfriend?” So, Bartscher said, “I turned to see what that commotion was. The next thing I know was my friends are scooping me up from the sidewalk.” 

KELO TV reports that Bartscher reported the assault immediately afterward to police, shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday morning. Their investigation has turned up two other reports of the attack that night that corroborate Bartscher’s account of what happened to him. The couple who instigated the incident fled the scene, and no one has been detained for the crime so far. Bartscher posted photos of his face on Facebook, even though he was a bit embarrassed to show he had such a shiner. The caption he chose for the pictures reads, “Stand up for what you believe in. Love everyone.” He wasn’t advocating for himself when he spoke to the slur wielding woman, he says. “That makes me think about my friends and my family and if that was said to them, like, just how hurtful words can be.”

Even days after the incident, Bartscher says his teeth still hurt, his head aches, and he is “a little sore” from the severity of the punch the woman’s boyfriend gave him. When asked if he would stand up for gay people again, given what happened to him, the soft-spoken South Dakotan said, “Yes, I would. And I will.” He says his parents instilled his values in him, values he hopes to pass along to his two little daughters.

Bartscher's black eye: "I would do it again," he says.

Bartscher’s black eye: “I would do it again,” he says.

Sioux Falls Police spokesman Sam Clemens responded to KSFY inquiries about the nature of this crime, saying, “If their sexual orientation or their race, or ethnicity come into play, and the crime is caused because of that, then it would be classified as a hate crime.” As a straight ally, Bartscher says one of the main reasons he spoke up was his friendship with people in the LGBT community. “Some of my best friends are either gay, bi, lesbian, and family too, so I don’t know. I didn’t even have to really think about it.”

Thomas Christiansen, vice president of the Sioux Falls Center for Equality, told KDLT News“Just to punch someone who was trying to say you shouldn’t use that derogatory term is pretty shocking.” He noted that hate crimes against LGBT people is a nationwide problem worsening in recent years, even with the passage of hate crimes protection laws for gay people regionally and federally. “The fact that she was using that term to address somebody when it is most associated with a derogatory term used against homosexuals, I think is inappropriate. When that slur turns into violence, [it] shouldn’t be tolerated,” Christiansen said.

Stories like this one, and a 2013 report of another straight ally, Nebraskan Ryan Langenegger, who took a beating defending his gay friends, one of whom was in women’s clothing, goes a long way toward restoring the faith of the LGBT Community in the goodness of the American public. But we have a long way to go before assaults like these two, involving straight allies speaking on behalf of their gay friends, come to a halt. Until then, the LGBT Community salutes them, and the millions of straight allies they have throughout the country.

September 20, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, GLBTQ, hate speech, LGBTQ, Nebraska, Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls Center for Equality, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, South Dakota, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Hate Stoning in Heart of Wilton Manors

A gay resident of Wilton Manors was stoned by an enraged homophobe along The Strip in Wilton Manors early Tuesday morning.

A gay resident of Wilton Manors was stoned by an enraged homophobe along The Strip in Wilton Manors early Tuesday morning.

Wilton Manors, Florida – A gay resident of Wilton Manors was assaulted by a slur-shouting attacker who pelted him with rocks this past Tuesday. Police are searching for a Hispanic man with a shaved head who stoned his victim about 12:40 a.m. on September 16 as his gay target walked home along Wilton Drive, the main street in what has been described as the “second gayest city in America.” Residents are outraged and frightened. They believed until recently, as others who live in America’s “gay meccas,” that anti-gay attacks “couldn’t happen here.” They can, and do.

Local 10 News reports that the victim, currently too terrified to make a statement on tape, was walking to his residence when the assailant approached him on foot, shouting anti-gay epithets and throwing rocks he picked up along the street. One of the stones hit the victim in the stomach. NBC 6 says that the victim hurried away toward his apartment with his attacker close behind, still shouting slurs and throwing rocks. When the victim got to his home, the attacker got in a gold colored Honda Accord and rushed from the scene. At the time of this report, authorities are searching for leads in what they are describing as a hate crime case. The gay victim whose identity remains concealed for the sake of protection, has made a formal complaint.

This latest attack has reverberated strongly throughout the South Florida Gay community. Well it should. This is the second violent attack against gay men in Wilton Manors since June. On June 16, two gay men were run down by a driver who struck and injured them in a hit-and-run incident that is described as “no accident” by Miami attorneys. CBS Local reports that the hit-and-run left one victim limping and in need of a cane long after the attack. In an age of Marriage Equality successes in the courts, the idea that LGBTQ people are not safe in their most cherished “gayborhoods” is shocking. But, as residents of other large centers of gay and lesbian population have discovered, anti-gay attacks have not abated in this country. Instead, they are alarmingly on the rise.

The Wilton Manors Mayor and officials of the local gay and lesbian center have called for a complete and swift investigation, and the apprehension and arrest of the assailant in this latest case of bias-motivated crime in the heart of one of the nation’s strongest gay and lesbian cities. But the story of attacks like this one have largely remained local, and are receiving little regional and no national attention. Meanwhile, homophobic violence rages on in American cities and towns. It remains to be seen if an attack of virtually biblical proportions, a stoning no less, will help awaken the public to the epidemic of hate violence being perpetrated against LGBTQ people in the USA at record levels.

September 18, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Florida, Hate Crimes, hit-and-run, Slurs and epithets, South Florida, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Wilton Manors | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hate Stoning in Heart of Wilton Manors

Alleged Missoula Gay Bashing Fabricated: Breaking News

Joseph Baken, 22, from Billings, Montana, filed a false police report alleging injuries from a hate crime in Missoula on August 5 that he fabricated. Many on social media believed him, and are now retracting their stories.

Missoula, Montana – The birthday gay  bashing publicized across the web in Missoula turned out to be a false report.  The web went viral with the story, which was also carried on Unfinished Lives, of “Joseph,” who claimed to have been beaten by three men outside a popular club in the wee hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning.  Joseph asserted that he was attacked by slur-shouting men because he asked where a gay club was in the area, so he could celebrate his 22nd birthday there.  Now, thanks to the Missoula Independent story circulating yesterday, we know Joseph’s claims to be false.

The facts of the case appear now to be that the alleged victim, Joseph Baken, 22, from Billings, actually sustained his bruises and other injuries doing a backflip on Higgins Avenue in downtown Missoula.  The Independent has posted a video of the accident, which is also in the possession of the Missoula Police Department.  Baken devised the story of the gay bashing to coverup his self-generated wounds. In the video of the backflip, Baken, who was apparently miming an Olympic athlete, stands backward on the curb, executes the flip, and lacerates his face upon landing.  His audience, off-screen, tell him he “nailed it.”  In fact, he chose to trivialize the violence done to thousands of gay and lesbian people by childishly seeking sympathy for an attack that did not occur.

In breaking news, Joseph Baken pleaded guilty on August 7 to charges of filing a false police report.  Missoula Municipal Court sentenced him to 180 days in jail and a $300 fine.  The judge suspended the jail time.

The Unfinished Lives Team apologizes to our readers for publishing its earlier story on this incident, and commends the Missoula Police Department for investigating and uncovering this fabricated story. Thanks to our reader, Steven Haines, for the link to the Missoula Independent. Here is a link to Andy Towle’s update on the story on Towleroad, as well.

August 8, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, false report, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Montana | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unfinished Lives on OutCast Austin

Our Project Director Stephen V. Sprinkle was on last night’s OutCast Radio talk show on the book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims.

Click on this link to listen to Sprinkle’s interview on Outcast Austin. Steve say’s that he had a wonderful time being on the program. (The Interview starts about 6:00 minutes in).

March 31, 2011 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Book excerpts, gay men, Gay-Straight Alliances, gender identity/expression, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Matthew Shepard Foundation, Media Issues, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Unfinished Lives Book Signings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Unfinished Lives on OutCast Austin

Unfinished Lives 2011 Book Tour Comes to North Carolina

Duke University Chapel

DURHAM – Dr. Sprinkle is scheduled to appear at Duke University in Durham on Tuesday, April 12, at the Cokesbury Book Store, 12 noon till 2 p.m. outside the refectory at the Divinity School, for his signing books. Rebecca Turner, Cokesbury‘s manager can be reached at rturner@cokesbury.com for details.

WILMINGTON – The appearance and book signing in Wilmington is Sunday, April 10, 2011 from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. at Two Sisters Bookery in downtown Wilmington. Brooks Preik, (one of the stores owners) can be reached at bpreik@att.net. Dr. Sprinkle is also preaching that morning at St. Jude‘s Metropolitan Community Church on 19 North 26th Street, Wilmington, 28405 for both the 9 AM and 11 AM services. For more information, contact Rev. John A. McLaughlin at stjudes@bellsouth.net, or 910/762-5833.

RALEIGH – Dr. Steve Sprinkle will be speaking in Raleigh at a noon-brown-bag lunch event in Talley Student Center on the campus of NC State Univ., Monday, April 11, 2011 from 12:00–1:15 pm. He will sign books from 1:15-1:45 pm. Justine Hollingshead, Director of the GLBT Center at NC State is our contact person for this event. The public is invited. Continue reading

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Bisexual persons, Book excerpts, Book Tour, Endorsements, gay men, Gay-Straight Alliances, gender identity/expression, Lesbian women, Media Issues, North Carolina, transgender persons, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Unfinished Lives 2011 Book Tour Comes to North Carolina

Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue

Here at the Unfinished Lives Project we would like to a moment to say thank you to  Cody J. Sanders for the best treatment of the bullying crisis from a theological perspective we have seen!

The article is entitled: “Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue” and it was published on religious dispatches. This article is a must read for all people of faith.

Thanks again Cody for this compelling argument.

Cody J. Sanders is a Baptist minister and Ph.D. student in Pastoral Theology and Counseling at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX. Cody was a Fellow in the inaugural class of the Human Rights Campaign Summer Institute for Religious and Theological Study and is a participant in the Beyond Apologetics symposium on sexual identity, pastoral theology, and pastoral practice.

October 3, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Campus Pride, death threats, gay men, gay teens, gun violence, Hanging, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Media Issues, Politics, Popular Culture, Public Theology, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, South Carolina, Special Comments, stabbings, stalking, Stomping and Kicking Violence, suicide, Texas, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue

15-Year-Old McInerney Will Be Tried as an Adult for the Murder of Larry King

Brandon McInerney, left, and Larry King, right

Brandon McInerney, left, and Larry King, right

Ventura County, CA – A judge reviewing the evidence against Brandon McInerney, 15, has ruled today that he will be tried “under special circumstances”  as an adult in the February 2008 shooting death of his 15-year-old gay classmate, Larry King, at a middle school in Oxnard, CA.  McInerney’s attorney has consistently argued that his client, 14 at the time of the shooting, should be tried as a juvenile rather than an adult.  But Judge Ken Riley ruled otherwise, on the basis of testimony in the three-day preliminary hearing that McInerney had threatened King’s life, and that on the morning of the shooting, he chose not to confront King on the playground or in the corridor before school, but “lay in wait” for 15 or 20 minutes inside the 8:30 am computer class he shared with his alleged victim before pulling the trigger, killing him in cold blood in front of their classmates.  The “executory nature” of the murder convinced Judge Riley to remand McInerney for trial as an adult, according to the Ventura County Star.  If convicted of all counts against him, McInerney could serve 53 years to life in prison.  The defendant’s mother, Kendra McInerney, broke out in tears as the judge issued his ruling.  The defense is expected to continue raising the “gay panic defense” as a mitigating factor in the slaying.  McInerney’s lawyer has said that his client cracked when King, who was openly gay and presented femininely, sent him a Valentine and blew him kisses.  Other evidence presented in the preliminary hearing suggests that McInerney was steeped in Neo-Nazi propaganda and had recently stayed over at the home of a white supremacist leader before the shooting, factors that may have influenced him to attack his gay classmate.

July 22, 2009 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, California, gay men, gay panic defense, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, School and church shootings | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 15-Year-Old McInerney Will Be Tried as an Adult for the Murder of Larry King

U.S. House Chair Calls for Hate Crime Investigation of Gay Sailor’s Murder

sailor saluteSan Diego, CA – The Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is calling for a hate crime probe into the death of Seaman August Provost, 29, shot to death and immolated in a guard shack on base at Camp Pendleton on Tuesday.  The AP reports that Representative Bob Filner, D-San Diego, chair of the powerful Veterans Affairs committee, has pressed officials for a full investigation into the murder of the African American Houston native who served in the Navy’s Hovercraft unit.  Members of the San Diego LGBT community asked Rep. Filner to intervene on their behalf so that the truth could come out.  The Navy has been traditionally reluctant to reveal details of any homicide involving homosexuality.  The Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) took a “person of interest” into custody and filed no charges against him, but the Houston Chronicle reports on July 3 that he has been released.  Captain Matt Brown, spokesperson for Navy Region Southwest in San Diego said, “Seaman Provost was an outstanding sailor looking forward to a bright future.  He was also a son, a friend and a shipmate, and all of us share in the grief and this sense of loss.  He will most surely be missed by all who loved and cared for him, and by those who served with him.”

July 5, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, California, gay men, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, military, Politics, U.S. Navy | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on U.S. House Chair Calls for Hate Crime Investigation of Gay Sailor’s Murder

The Death and Life of Sean Kennedy: A Commemoration

Sean KennedySean Kennedy died from injuries sustained in an anti-LGBT hate crime attack outside a Greenville, SC bar on May 16, 2007.  The facts of the case are not in dispute.  At 3:45 a.m., Sean William Kennedy, 20, an out gay man, approached some young women who were talking with a car full of straight young men, among whom was Stephen Moller, 18.  The women were distracted from speaking to the young studs by Kennedy, who inadvertently brushed his cigarette against Moller’s cheek, giving him a little burn.  Another passenger in the car told Moller, “You know that dude is gay, right?” and “You probably have got AIDS from him!”  Enraged, Moller rushed out of the car and hit Sean Kennedy in the face with his fist so hard that his facial bones broke.  Kennedy fell back as a result of Moller’s blow with such force that when his head hit the concrete curb, his brain stem detached from his brain.  Moller got back in the car, which sped away from the scene of the crime.

Sean Kennedy had no chance.  In effect, he was dead from the moment his skull struck the curb.  Elke Kennedy, his mother, has had to live with the horror of his murder ever since.

Moller, on the other hand, reveled in his macho moment.  In a drunken phone call to one of Sean’s friends just fifteen minutes after the crime, Moller taunted Kennedy for his sexual orientation.  Though it was taped and verified to be Moller’s voice, the call was never allowed into testimony at Moller’s trial:

“Hey. (laughter) Whoa stop. (laughter) Hey, I was just wondering how your boyfriend’s feeling right about now. (laughter) (??) knocked the f— out. (laughter). The f—— faggot. He ought to never stick his mother-f—— nose (??) Where are you going? Just a minute. (laughter). Yea boy, your boy is knocked out, man. The mother——-. Tell him he owes me $500.00 for breaking my god—- hand on his teeth that f—— bitch.”                                                            


Moller's mug shot, SC Department of Corrections

Moller's mug shot, SC Department of Corrections

Gay panic.  AIDS terror.  Homophobia.  Macho bravado.  A hands-on-attack in which the assailant feels the need to damage his target up close and personally.  These are all the hallmarks of an anti-LGBT hate crime, as well as the response of the police on the scene who refused to take the hate crime dimension of the assault seriously enough to investigate it until later, and the reluctance of the District Attorney to bring sexual orientation into the case for fear of local heterosexist and homophobic prejudices.  Local law enforcement reluctance to investigate or prosecute hate crimes against LGBT people is one of the prime reasons a federal hate crimes statute like the Matthew Shepard Act is so needed.  Under the provisions of the Shepard Act, the Attorney General of the United States is enpowered to take over the investigation and prosecution of such a hate crime in situations like this one.  No doubt, Moller’s homophobic braggadocio would have been taken into account, had the Shepard Act been on the books at the time of Sean Kennedy’s murder.  Moller’s defense rested on two contentions that the court in Greenville bought, in the end: first, Moller didn’t even know Kennedy was gay until after the assault, the inadmissible taped phone conversation to the contrary, and second, nothing in this case rose to the level of murder.  The D.A. settled for a charge of manslaughter which carries a penalty of 0-5 years in South Carolina.  Moller got three years with credit for time served, and sympathy for his need to support a baby he sired while in the custody of the state.  An attempt to lessen his prison time failed, thanks to the efforts of Sean Kennedy’s mother, stepfather, and hundreds of concerned people from around the country who petitioned the parole board in Columbia to deny Moller’s petition for early release.  In the end, Moller will serve about a year and a half of actual time, with probation for the hate crime murder of an innocent gay man.  Moller is due to be set free, his debt to society paid in full, in July 2009.  


Sean’s death still tortures his loved ones.  His mother said, “My son was violently murdered because of hate and as his mother I wanted justice. My family will never be the same, a big part of our lives has been ripped out of our hearts.”  For too many hate crimes victims, that would be the end of it–injustice, anguish, and the eventual amnesia of a society that would rather just not think about such things.  But not for Sean.  

SeansLastWishElke and her husband Jim Parker have rallied hundreds to the cause of remembering Sean and advocating for LGBT human rights.  They established Sean’s Last Wish, a foundation that perpetuates Sean Kennedy’s desire that everyone be treated equally, www.seanslastwish.org.  Sean’s parents have become lions in the struggle for South Carolina and the rest of the nation to have the tools needed to investigate and prosecute violence and intimidation motivated by bias against persons regardless of race, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity of the victim.  Sean’s death has, in effect, given birth to a new and effective way for his memory to be preserved and honored: in the lives of all those spared and enriched to live fully as who they are, free of fear and violence.  

The struggle for justice for Sean continues.  Elke Kennedy recently said, “No mother should lose a child to hate. No mother should have to fight for justice for their child.  To parents who reject their children for their orientation, what would you do if you got a call at three in the morning telling you your child had been murdered?”  And Sean’s new life past his death, in memory, in advocacy, and as a cherished story that shall not be forgotten goes on and on.  As Sean himself wrote, “So who knows what’s around the corner or down the street.  I’m just gonna live life and find out.”

Sprinkle in FL 08 


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

May 17, 2009 Posted by | Heterosexism and homophobia, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, South Carolina | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Death and Life of Sean Kennedy: A Commemoration

Gay Man Gunned Down in His Florida Driveway

Mark Scott HarrissMark Scott Harriss, 30, looked forward to moving to Canada to get married to his fiancé, Ross Salvosa.  Instead, he was shot to death around 8:30 pm in his Delray Beach, Florida driveway on Monday, May 11, 2009.  Was it a hate crime?  He had  multiple gunshot wounds, and there was no evidence of robbery, according to investigators.  Though authorities have not yet made the determination that his murder was a hate crime, friends of Harriss think it was likely.  Professor Earl Fox from the University of Miami School of Medicine knew him well, and the neighborhood where he lived.  Fox noted to the Palm Beach Post that another friend of his who lives in the same area as Harriss had a Nazi swastika painted on her car earlier this year because she is Jewish.  “If somebody is shot multiple times and nobody takes anything, that is just strange,” Fox told reporters.

Police told WPBF television, an ABC affiliate, that Harris was shot 12 times at close range in a manner resembling an “assassination.”  Homophobia is under consideration as a motive for the murder, officers said.

Harriss grew up in Fredericksburg, Texas, in the Hill Country.  He was an enthusiastic water skier, and loved gardening, according to his high school classmate, Theresa Valenzuela, of Austin.  He had moved to Florida in 2007 to take a job with Best Western Motels.  Salvosa, a classical piano student, lived with him until his student visa expired, at which time he returned to his native home in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Harriss was tying up loose ends as quickly as he could in Delray Beach, so that he could find a job in Canada, go to live there in early summer, and marry his beloved.

Now Salvosa is returning to Florida to mourn Harriss and to oversee his memorial service.  Harriss wished to be cremated, and to have his ashes interred back in New Braunfels, Texas, a city between Austin and San Antonio.

Investigations into Harriss’ savage murder continue, and the Delray Police Department vow to follow all leads until the tragic mystery of this killing is resolved.

May 16, 2009 Posted by | Florida, Heterosexism and homophobia, Marriage Equality | , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Man Gunned Down in His Florida Driveway

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