Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay NC Veteran Burned, Beaten, Dies: A Special Comment

Stephen Patrick White, burned and beaten to death, and his alleged assailant, Garry Gupton (insert photo).

Stephen Patrick White, burned and beaten to death, and his alleged assailant, Garry Gupton (insert photo).

Greensboro, NC – A gay veteran of Iraq who was savagely attacked, beaten, and set on fire by a younger man who checked into a hotel with him finally succumbed to his injuries on Saturday. Stephen Patrick White, 46, a well-regarded member of the gay community in Piedmont North Carolina and a patron of Club Chemistry, a popular gay bar in Greensboro, was fatally assaulted by Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, a city employee of the Water Services Department. The two met, according to witnesses at Chemistry, and left the club together late on November 8, as this blog previously reported. They checked in to the Battleground Inn.

White’s injuries were horrendous. He suffered burns over 52 percent of his body, and had large portions of his arms amputated in an attempt to save his life. Gupton was arrested on the scene and charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. The City Water Services Department subsequently fired Gupton from his job as a consequence of the investigation. Now, Gupton is charged with first degree murder. Q Notes reports that the Greensboro police are saying that there is no evidence of a hate crime in this case. The Q Notes report includes this statement from a Greensboro PD spokesperson:

“He (Gupton) never verbalized to us that he intended to kill somebody,” said Susan Danielsen, a Greensboro police spokeswoman. . . . There’s absolutely no evidence to indicate that this is a hate crime.”

She added: “We’re not sure what caused Mr. Gupton to act so violently. This is not a crime motivated by hate.”  

But Danielson could not refrain from adding that while the Greensboro PD are “sure this is not a hate crime,” they have no other explanation for Gupton’s heinous acts, including his use of fire in his deadly attack on White.  “We’re not sure what caused Mr. Gupton to act so violently,” Danielson went on to say to Q Notes. Then, as if she had opened a door she did not want to open, Danielson concluded, “This is not a crime motivated by hate.” 

At this point, all the public has to go on is the assurance of the police that a brutal attack against a gay man who was naked in a hotel room that included a weapon often reserved particularly for the “purification” of “sodomites,” fire, was not a hate crime. Police in the Tarheel State are not permitted to investigate bias-motivated crimes of violence against LGBT people anyway, since the state has refused to include them in its hate crimes statutes. Nonetheless, the police seem eager to rule out hate crime in this instance.

Let us say for the time being they are correct. There was no hate against homosexuality expressed in this crime, explicitly. This, the police are suggesting, was a consensual sexual situation gone terribly bad. Still, the public is left to ask who brought the flammable material into the room? Why was fire used in this case–a give-away for extreme passions and, yes, hatred of the victim targeted in attacks involving burning someone, in this instance as in the instances of thousands of other gay men and lesbians, to death?

However this crime went down in the Gate City, an entire LGBT community is left fearful, shocked, and wondering. Chris Srgo, Executive Director of Equality North Carolina, vocalized the anguish of the statewide community in a statement on Saturday:

“Stephen White’s death is a tragic loss for the Greensboro community and North Carolina. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Stephen’s family. Equality NC promises to follow this investigation closely to ensure that it is thorough and justice is served. The loss of a community member is always tragic, but this loss is unacceptable. As fellow citizens of Greensboro, my husband Ryan and I mourn tonight and stand in solidarity with the LGBT community in Greensboro.” 

Of course, it is wrong to suggest that an obvious marker for homophobia (perhaps internalized homophobia), the use of the torch to burn a gay man (where the despicable term “faggot” originates–the burning at the stake of gay men as if they were dry wood), inevitably leads to the conclusion that Stephen White was attacked so savagely because of his sexual orientation. Yet, is it not also a mistake of equal magnitude to conclude that because the suspect, Gupton, never verbalized that he intended to kill someone that night, he simply went berserk, and finding flammable liquids at hand, thought to use fire as a way to punish his naked pick up for the night?

The North Carolina state motto is “Esse Quam Videri” (“To Be Rather Than To Seem”). Perhaps it would do investigators and lawmakers in Tarheelia well to move beyond what they seem to want to believe in this instance-to the point that they refuse to investigate or legislate even the possibility of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes-, and to answer the nagging question about the motive for the use of fire to kill another gay man the Old North State.

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Equality North Carolina, gay veterans, GLBTQ, Greensboro, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, LGBTQ, North Carolina, Special Comments | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay NC Veteran Savagely Burned, Beaten, Robbed in Downtown Hotel By City Employee

Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, doused his gay victim with fire and beat him into unconsciousness.

Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, doused his gay victim with fire and beat him into unconsciousness.

Greensboro, NC – A decorated gay veteran wounded in Iraq was beaten with a phone, pieces of furniture, a large television, and then set afire by a city employee he met at a local gay bar. 46-year-old Stephen White, a regular customer at Greensboro’s popular gay venue, Chemistry, was discovered naked, savagely beaten, and burned over 52% of his body at the Battleground Inn at approximately 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, November 9, according to Q Notes. Garry Joseph Gupton, a 26-year-old Greensboro city employee, was arrested at the scene and charged with the near-fatal attack. Police are saying that assault was carried out “with intent to kill.” Employees of the bar say that Gupton met White Saturday night and they took a cab from the club. Since White is a well-known patron of Chemistry, everything seemed “normal.” In the aftermath of the attack, the gay community is left speculating that Gupton came hunting for an openly gay man to kill. White’s hand and a portion of his arm had to be amputated because of the severity of his burns at Wake Forest Medical Center in Winston-Salem. He remains in critical care. Hospital officials say that White faces months of surgery, skin grafting, and rehabilitation.

WFMY Television reports that Gupton, a member of the Greensboro City Water Resources crew, has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and inflicting serious injury with intent to kill. He was initially being held on $150,000 bond pending further charges. At his first court appearance on Wednesday, Gupton’s bond was increased to $250,000, and he asked for a court appointed attorney to be assigned to him.

White’s friend, Riki Dublin, told WFMY that the brutality of the attack on the Iraq War veteran staggers her imagination. “I am just in awe of the magnitude of the hate that is involved and I truly do not believe this man has a soul. Cause you, I just couldn’t ever imagine any human treating another human like that,” she said. After announcing a fundraiser for White, who does not have insurance, Dublin went on to say, “It’s hard. When you send your son off to war and he comes back, and he comes back injured but he comes back alive and then he is brutally attacked… here on our own dirt, it’s hard to fathom.” The fundraiser was scheduled for the following Saturday to defray White’s massive medical bills.

Stephen White, decorated Iraq War veteran, victimized by savage attack.

Stephen White, decorated Iraq War veteran, victimized by savage attack.

The owner of Chemistry, Drew Woffard, also stepped up, calling upon the Greensboro community to support White, according to The Advocate. In a statement issued to Q Notes, Woffard announced a November 15 benefit at the club, and said, “Stephen has a long road ahead of him but he is a fighter and he is definitely not alone. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are all fighting for him. Also I remind you to please use caution when leaving our bar or any bar with someone you don’t know. I never would have dreamed something like this would happen here in Greensboro… but let’s make sure it never happens again.” 

The Advocate went on to report that no agency yet plans to charge Gupton with a hate crime, and investigators are not bothering to do so. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force notes that North Carolina’s hate crimes statutes do not include LGBT persons as a protected class. Victims of anti-gay violence like White are left exposed, since North Carolina’s law does not address violence perpetrated against persons because of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

If there ever was a case that screamed “hate crime,” this horrific attack does. The use of fire as a weapon in anti-LGBTQ violence has a long and fearsome history, dating back to the Spanish Inquisition. Scholars have noted a decided uptick in cases of bias-driven hate crimes against lesbians and gay men incorporating fire as a deadly weapon. As Stephen White struggles to recover from this heinous act of violence, and Garry Gupton awaits justice to be meted out as it can be in a state that ignores anti-LGBT crimes, the gay community in the Tarheel State is left to ponder what form of murderous intent would set a young man like Gupton to stalk and purge one of their own with fire.

November 13, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, gay men, gay veterans, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, LGBTQ, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, North Carolina | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Florida Transwoman Discovered Burned to Death Behind Garbage Cans; Media Disrespect Her in Her Death

Transwoman Yaz'min Shanchez, 31, immolated to death behind a trash dumpster down a private road in Fort Myers {Facebook photo).

Transwoman Yaz’min Shanchez, 31, immolated to death behind a trash dumpster down a private road in Fort Myers {Facebook photo).

Fort Myers, Florida – A 31-year-old transgender woman of color was found burned to death in Fort Myers behind a garbage dumpster, according to the Naples News.  Yaz’min Shanchez who identified as a woman since 2004 was found on June 19 behind a Budget Truck Rental site on a dead-end road in an industrial part of the city. The victim’s father arrived at the scene to find his child’s body charred and bloody, according to reports in the media. Lt. Jay Rodriguez said that hate crime is not a dimension of the investigation as things now stand. Though authorities wish to rule out anti-transgender hatred as a motive, fire is often used as a weapon against LGBTQ people, and is often a tip off to homophobic and transphobic hate crimes.

“We have no indication at this time to say this was specifically done because it was a male living as a female or anything like that,” Lt. Rodriguez said. “If you really think about it, a hate crime is killing someone for a specific reason, being black, Hispanic, gay. We’re investigating as we would any other homicide.”  Yet, recent reports from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) show that while numbers of other bias-driven crimes are declining slightly, anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, especially those perpetrated against transgender people of color, are escalating.  The reports document that:

  • Transgender women, especially transgender women of color, were two to three times more likely to experience physical violence, police violence, and discrimination than victims who were not transgender women.
  • LGBTQ people of color were 1.8 times more likely to encounter hate-motivated violence than white LGBTQ people.

The Center for American Progress is sounding the alarm about the precipitous increase in anti-LGBTQ and anti-gender variant hate crimes in the U.S. by calling on law enforcement states like Florida to strengthen the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by passing local and state protection statutes for transgender people, and by aggressively educating law enforcement agencies and the general public.

The immolation of Yaz’min Shanchez indicates that the work it will take to educate the media and law enforcement about the nature of transphobia and racism will be immense.  News reports quoting Shanchez’s family show that while they loved her, they had never reconciled themselves to her chosen way of identifying herself as a woman.  After ten years, her father was still referring to her as “he,” and “him.”  The police report led with the identification of the victim by a cisgender name, Eddie James Owen, though the family acknowledged to police repeatedly that she had identified as a transgender woman.  Naples News does little or nothing to redress this problem in their report of the murder. While how a person is identified within a family is a matter they must resolve themselves, there is no excuse for media and law enforcement to add disrespect of the victim’s self-identification by insisting on cisgender language.  The transgender community and its allies are already in enough pain, fear, and turmoil without compounding the problems surrounding Ms. Shanchez’s murder.

EDGE on the Net quotes GLAAD spokesperson Ross Murray as saying that whether Shanchez died of a transphobic hate crime or not, “no one deserves to be violently murdered and set on fire and put behind a Dumpster.” Murray added, “Particularly transgender women of color, face the most violence against them. I think that transgender people are still marginalized and stigmatized in our society. We tend to talk about transgender people in a way that discounts their experience and makes them a butt of a joke or deviant or suspicious and doesn’t take (their) whole life into account.”

Over 200 people participated in a Sunday vigil organized by The Southwest Florida Equality Coalition and the Center of Southwest Florida for Ms. Shanchez.  Naples News reports that Heather Lunsford, a founder of The Center, told the crowd, “We’re here to show unity. We’re in support of any community members, especially on the LGBT spectrum. [We’re here to bring awareness] especially because of the nature of the crime committed against [Shancez].” In a poignant moment, attendee Jenna Satterfield said to a reporter, “The amount of violence in this crime screams the perpetrators were trying to send a message. In spite of the fact we’re lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgendered, we’re no different than anybody else … We’re no different and we mean no harm.”

June 23, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Burning and branding, Center for American Progress, Florida, GLAAD, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, immolation, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, Southwest Florida Equality Coalition, The Center of Southwest Florida, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Florida Transwoman Discovered Burned to Death Behind Garbage Cans; Media Disrespect Her in Her Death

“Gender-Neutral” Teenager Set Afire While Sleeping in Horrific Hate Crime

Teen Sasha Fleischman, set on fire by homophobic 16-year-old attacker as he slept on a transit bus.

Teen Sasha Fleischman, set on fire by homophobic 16-year-old attacker as he slept on a transit bus.

Oakland, California – An 18-year-old teen who identifies as “non-binary” or “gender-neutral” was set on fire Monday evening as he slept soundly in the rear of an AC Transit bus.  Luke “Sasha” Fleischman, a popular student at Berkeley’s Maybeck High School, suffered second and third degree burns on his legs when a 16-year-old assailant set a skirt Fleischman was wearing alight.  Passengers on board the bus aided Fleischman in extinguishing the stubborn flames.  The attacker, Richard Thomas, who was arrested Tuesday on the campus of Oakland High School, now admits that his feelings of homophobia led him to try and burn the sleeping teen alive.

NBC Bay Area News reports that anger at the attacker and compassion for Fleischman emerged quickly as news of the attack spread throughout the East Bay area.  Fleischman, whose mother told the Bay Area Newsgroup that her child felt comfortable wearing female-identified clothing such as a skirt, has long understood himself to be gender neutral.  “My son considers himself agender,” Debbie Fleischman said. “He likes to wear a skirt. It’s his statement. That’s how he feels comfortable dressing.”  The teenager’s cousin, 25-year-old Tara Young, a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, said “I don’t care what he was wearing, You don’t light someone on fire.”

Rushed to the Burn Center at San Francisco’s St. Francis Memorial Hospital, Fleischman underwent surgery on his legs Wednesday. Donations have poured in to help defray the cost of his medical care, topping $20,000 in a matter of hours.  Hospital officials confirmed that the teenager will need to undergo painful skin grafts and “several surgeries.”

Meanwhile, his attacker, 16-year-old Richard Thomas, who had been arrested and initially charged with assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem, is now being fully charged for each count as a bias-motivated hate crime after admitting his intense homophobic feelings motivated him to set his victim’s clothing on fire.  KQED News reports that Alameda County law enforcement officials, who acknowledge the attack on Fleischman was motivated by anti-queer hatred, are charging Thomas as an adult.  The Oakland Tribune interviewed lead Police Investigator in the case, Anwawm Jones, who confirmed, “During (the) suspect interview, the suspect stated he did it because he was homophobic.”  Oakland District Attorney Nancy O’Malley told The Tribune that Thomas’s “violent and senseless criminal conduct resulted in severe and traumatic injuries to a young and entirely innocent victim,” and went on to say, “The intentional and callous nature of the crime is shocking and will not be tolerated in our community. Our thoughts remain with the victim and the victim’s family in wishing for a full recovery from the extensive burns suffered as a result of this crime.”

Felony aggravated assault carries a possible life sentence with a possibility of parole, the assault charge has a maximum penalty of eight years in prison, and each count of hate crime enhancement adds a year in prison, according to the Alameda District Attorney’s Office.

“Sasha” Fleischman represents an emerging group of youth who do not fit into the male/female binary, some of whom consider themselves gender-neutral, agender, or genderqueer.  According to his parents, Sasha came out as agender two years ago, and became politically active in order to carve out a place in American consciousness for youth like himself.  He gathered over 27,000 signatures on a petition with which he attempt to draw President Obama’s attention to the issue, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, California, gender-neutral youth, genderqueer youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, LGBTQ | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Gender-Neutral” Teenager Set Afire While Sleeping in Horrific Hate Crime

East Texas Gay Basher Sentenced to 8 Years

James Mitchell Laster III, sentenced to eight years for gay bashing.

Lamar County, Texas – The first of three accused gay bashers has been sentenced to eight years in prison by a Paris, Texas court on Thursday, February 23, following a plea bargain agreement.  As reported in the Dallas Voice, James Mitchell Laster, 33, pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon in the October 30, 2011 attack on Burke Burnett, a gay man who was attending a pre-Halloween party with friends at the time of the hate crime assault.  Burnett, 26, was beaten, bruised, and burned when Laster and two other men yelling anti-gay slurs bodily threw him into a burning garbage barrel because he was gay.  The story made national news because of the graphic nature of Burnett’s injuries.  Gary Young, Lamar County District Attorney, released at statement to the Paris News, saying that Laster also pled guilty to the hate crime enhancement charge lodged against him for his role in the brutal attack.  Laster will have to serve at least four years of his sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.

25-year-old Micky Joe Smith of Brookston, and 33-year-old Daniel Shawn Martin of Paris are still in jail pending trial for their part in the savage gay bashing of Burnett, who received 3o stitches to close his wounds, and suffered second-degree burns over a good portion of his body from being thrown in the burning trash barrel.  Burnett, who now lives in Houston, was unavailable for comment on the sentence at the time of this report.

Significantly, this case is one of the few recent instances when the Texas hate crimes law has been invoked in sentencing. The Austin American-Statesman reported in January 2012 that the Texas statute has had “little effect” in prosecuting bias-motivated crimes in the Lone Star State.  Since the law was passed in 2001, there have been no fewer than 2000 cases in the state which were bias-motivated, yet the hate crimes statute was invoked in only ten of these prosecutions.  The reluctance of Texas prosecutors to use the hate crimes statute stands in sharp contrast to California, where prosecutors filed hate crimes charges in 230 cases in 2010 alone, and New York, where around a dozen hate crimes are prosecuted a year.  The use of the Texas hate crime law in the Laster sentencing may set a precedent for its use by prosecutors in the two remaining trials stemming from the Burnett gay bashing.

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Detroit Trans Teen’s Remains Found Burned Near Interstate

Michele "Shelley" Hilliard, 19, had to be ID'ed by a tattoo on her upper arm.

Detroit, Michigan – The charred torso of a missing teen transwoman of color was identified this week in the Wayne County morgue where it had been stored for weeks, and left unidentified.  The remains were collected near Interstate 94 on Detroit’s east side.  Michele “Shelley” Hilliard, 19, was last seen on October 23 at 1:20 a.m., and was reported missing, according to the Detroit Free Press.  Though her facial features and fingerprints were destroyed by fire, investigators were able to make a positive identification because of a distinctive tattoo depicting cherries inked into her upper right arm.  Her mother, summoned by the Wayne County Examiners Office, also confirmed the identity of her child from the tattoo on the burnt remains. Police are now investigating Ms. Hilliard’s death as a homicide.  There is no word about whether a transphobic hate crime is suspected by the authorities, but the disappearance coupled with the attempted immolation of the remains is a familiar signature of anti-trans hate crimes.  Equality Michigan is aiding the Detroit Police Department in their investigation, according to CBS Detroit.  Michigan’s hate crimes law does not include LGBTQ persons as protected classes, making it harder to compel law enforcement to regard violence against the queer community as hate crimes.

In little more than two weeks, three gay men, Steven Iorio from Pennsylvania, Burke Burnett of Texas, and Stuart Walker from Scotland were either attacked by homophobes wielding fire as a weapon, or had their remains immolated after death. Now the immolated remains of transgender Shelley Hilliard are discovered on a Detroit Interstate service road, raising the question of how often fire is employed as a weapon of transphobic/homophobic terror.  As Philip M. Miner of the Center for Homicide Research points out for the Huffington Post, while between 600 and 700 people are killed by arson every year in the United States, fully 26 per cent of this total is from the gay and transgender community.  Miner observes that the use of fire and arson as hate crimes weapons against the LGBTQ community is normally thoroughly planned out ahead of time. He writes: “Attacks involving arson are especially brutal. Meticulous care is taken in carrying them out. The violence is heaped on . . . [Anti-LGBTQ arson attacks] are wrought with meaning,” Miner continues. “The offender wants there to be no doubt that this violence was intentional. In the case of hate crimes, it’s a warning. This is what happens when you are gay. This is what these people get — what they deserve.” 

Equality Michigan points out in its report on transgender hate violence, “During the first half of 2011, Equality Michigan received reports of 83 incidents of violence or intimidation targeting gay and transgender residents that are considered hate crimes under the [federal] Shepard-Byrd Act. However, because the statewide hate crime law is not comprehensive, incidents against gay and transgender Michiganders that are clearly motivated by anti-gay or anti-transgender bias are ignored as hate crimes.”  As a case in point, advocates are watching the Hilliard case especially closely.

Michele “Shelley” Hilliard was nicknamed “Treasure.” The irony of her murder, a young transwoman who had courage enough to transition into the authentic person she truly was, is that only now do we begin to understand the treasure we have lost in her passing.

November 11, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arson, Burning and branding, Center for Homicide Research, Equality Michigan, gay bashing, gay men, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Detroit Trans Teen’s Remains Found Burned Near Interstate

Gay Texan Savagely Attacked with Broken Beer Bottle, Then Thrown in Fire

Burke Burnett, hate crime victim (Dallas Voice image)

Reno, Texas – A gay man attending a private party in Reno, a town near Paris, Texas, was brutally attacked with a broken bottle and then thrown bodily into a flaming fire barrel on Sunday because he was gay.  The Dallas Voice broke the story, quoting 26-year-old victim Burke Burnett as saying on Monday, “They knew I was gay. I’m convinced they were trying to kill me.”  Burnett told John Wright of the Voice. Four men shouting epithets like “gay bitch,” “cock-sucking punk,” and “pussy-ass faggot,” lunged at Burnett, stabbing him with a broken beer bottle, beating him, and then heaving him into the fire.  Burnett was rushed by girlfriends to a hospital in Sulphur Springs, about 30 miles away.  He suffered contusions, bruises, and second degree burns.  The slashes with the broken bottle required over 30 stitches.

The Reno Police Department played down the attack to the press, saying little more than that the case was still under investigation.  Burnett told the Voice that officers on the scene told him that the crime was going to be classified as bias-driven, but that the assailants, whose identities are known, could take more than two weeks before their arrests.  Another local source said that Reno police were considering lowering the degree of the offenses to misdemeanors since they took place during a party. Meanwhile, Burnett is hoping that his injuries do not disable him or prove to be permanent.

Burnett credits his girlfriends with preventing his injuries from being much worse,  They slowed down his attackers long enough for him to escape to a parked vehicle.  Then, they took him to the hospital for treatment.  The New Civil Rights Movement echoes the Dallas Voice, reporting that none of the other 20 party-goers attempted to stop the attack.

November 1, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Texan Savagely Attacked with Broken Beer Bottle, Then Thrown in Fire

Pittsburgh Suburban Man Set On Fire for Being Gay

Steven Iorio, 37, victim of deadly attack with fire (WXPI photo).

Heidelberg, Pennsylvania – A gay man in a southwest suburb of Pittsburgh woke up screaming with his leg set afire by a couple of one-time “friends.”  Steven Iorio, 37, of Heidelberg, fell into a deep sleep in the early hours of  September 22 after a night of drinking, only to feel his left leg burning after two local men set it ablaze with a bottle of Bacardi 151 Rum, according to WXPI Channel 11 News. Iorio came back to an apartment complex on West Railroad Street and passed out on a couch to sleep off the effects of too much to drink at the Heidelway Bar and Restaurant. An eyewitness identified  Brandon Washington, 25, and David A. Blair Jr., 31, of writing anti-gay epithets on Iorio’s jeans, and drawing on his face while he was sleeping.  Then the pair soaked Iorio’s leg with the highly flammable rum, before Blair allegedly set the liquor on fire. Two other people from the apartments ran to see the source of the commotion after being roused by Iorio’s yells of pain.

Iorio’s friend, Tina Cook, told WXPI that she received a frantic early morning call, summoning her to the scene. After a look at the severity of the second and third degree burns on the back of Iorio’s leg, Cook insisted that he go to the hospital for treatment.  She is clear on the anti-gay motivation for the immolation. “They wrote disturbing [anti-gay] things on his pants and drew on his face,” Cook said. Heidelberg Police Chief Vernon Barkeley told Chartiers Valley Patch blog that his department has been investigating the attack for the better part of a month to determine the identity of all the people inside the apartment living room when Iorio’s leg was set alight. Chief Vernon said that the attack could have endangered everyone present in the 13-unit apartment complex that night, had the blaze spread to draperies and the building. He described the continuing suffering the victim faces since the potentially fatal crime: “[Iorio] is still seeing doctors for these injuries while racking up numerous medical bills,” Barkley said. “He will have permanent scarring and is in pain daily.”  Iorio will probably carry scars for the rest of his life as a reminder of the way his Allegheny County drinking buddies treat gays. As of this writing, he wounds have still not healed.

No news source to date says that the two alleged perpetrators of this deadly prank have been arrested for the crime.  Instead, the pair was charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, conspiracy,  ethnic intimidation, and risking a catastrophe, and allowed to go home.  Nor has there been any comment about what the eyewitness was doing when the two men who proved to be anything but friends, were setting Iorio afire.

When Steven Iorio was asked by a WXPI reporter if he considered Blair and Washington “friends,” he answered with a resounding “No!”

October 22, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History: We Must Not Forget Its Cost

Washington, D.C. – Today marks the advent of full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the 1993 law making gay and lesbian servicemembers liable for discharge if they admitted their sexual orientation.  While there will be celebrations and night watch parties throughout the nation marking this historic day in the struggle for LGBTQ equality, we cannot afford to forget the terrible cost anti-gay discrimination has wrought in the Armed Forces of the United States.  So, today, we lift up the lives and patriotic service of four gay men who died because of the ignorance and bigotry of other servicemembers, and the systemic bigotry of the services themselves which at best permitted these murders, and at worst encouraged them.

Seaman August Provost of Houston, Texas, was shot to death on duty in a Camp Pendleton guard shack, and his remains were burned to erase the evidence of the deed on June 30, 2009 in San Diego, California. He had recently complained to his family that a fellow servicemember was harassing him because of his sexual orientation.  He feared speaking with his superiors about the harassment because of the threat of discharge due to DADT.  His partner in life, Kaether Cordero of Houston, said, “People who he was friends with, I knew that they knew. He didn’t care that they knew. He trusted them.”  Seaman Provost joined the Navy in 2008 to gain benefits to finish school, where he was studying to become an architectural engineer.

Private First Class Michael Scott Goucher, a veteran of the Iraq War, was murdered near his home in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on February 4, 2009 by an assailant who stabbed him at least twenty times. Known locally as “Mike on a Bike” by neighbors and friends, Goucher was an assistant organist for a congregation of the United Church of Christ, and Captain of the neighborhood Crime Watch.  He also was a selectively closeted gay man, hiding his sexual orientation from his community. Goucher survived deployment in Iraq, only to meet death at the hands of homophobes back home.

Private First Class Barry Winchell of Kansas City, Missouri, was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat as he slept in his barracks by a member of his unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky on July 6, 1999.  Winchell had fallen in love with a transgender woman, Calpurnia Adams, who lived in Nashville, Tennessee.  In the fallout from his murder, President Bill Clinton ordered a review of DADT, which resulted in the addition of a “Don’t Harass” amendment to the policy, but little else. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, who represented Winchell’s parents in litigation with the U.S. Army, demanded to know who in the upper ranks of Fort Campbell knew of the murder and its subsequent cover up.  The commandant of the fort was promoted over the objections of many human rights advocates. Winchell’s story has been immortalized by the 2003 film, “Soldier’s Girl.”

Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler Jr. of Chicago Heights, Illinois was murdered on October 27, 1992 in a public toilet on base in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. His killer was a shipmate who despised Schindler for being gay. He had been outed while on board the U.S.S. Belleau Wood, and was supposedly under the protection of his superiors until he could be separated from the service.  Schindler had called his mother to tell her to expect him home by Christmas.  Instead, the Navy shipped his savaged remains home to Chicago Heights before Thanksgiving.  The only way family members could identify his remains was by a tattoo of the U.S.S. Midway on his forearm.  Otherwise, he was beaten so brutally that his uncle, sister, and mother could not tell he was their boy.  Schindler’s murder was presented as a reason DADT should never have been enacted, but authorities in Washington brushed his story aside and enacted the ban against gays in the military anyway. Schindler’s story is told at length in Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, authored by the founder of the Unfinished Lives Project, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle.

We at Unfinished Lives celebrate the repeal of DADT tonight with thanksgiving for the courage of lesbian and gay servicemembers who chose to serve their country in the military though their country chose not to honor them.  More than 13,500 women and men were drummed out of the service under DADT.  But in addition to the thousands who faced discharge and shame, we cannot forget, we must not forget, the brave souls who died at the hands of irrational hatred and ignorance–the outworking of a blatantly discriminatory policy that never should have blighted the annals of American history.  The four lives we remember here are representative of hundreds, perhaps thousands more, whose stories demonstrate the lengths to which institutions and governments will go to preserve homophobia and heterosexism.  We will remember with thanksgiving our gay and lesbian dead, for to forget them would be to contribute to the ills wrought by DADT.

September 20, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, California, DADT, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Illinois, immolation, Kentucky, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, military, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Repeal of DADT, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Tennessee, Texas, transgender persons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History: We Must Not Forget Its Cost

Southwest Air Pilot Smears Gays on Radio, Suspended, Then Reinstated

Southwest Air Flight Attendant Ken Cummings Jr. (r), and his murderer, Terry Mark Mangum (l)

Houston, Texas – Most passengers are acquainted with a friendly pilot’s voice on the inboard com link, welcoming them aboard a flight.  A Southwest Air pilot, however, launched into a homophobic tirade on a stuck-open mic about gay employees and others in a rant that cost him a suspension, according to EDGE reports. In a March incident only now coming to light thanks to news reports by KRPC-TV, the pilot indulged himself in a series of epithets and slurs against gay people, older employees, and obese employees for two-and-a-half minutes, calling them (in the publishable portion of his rant), “gays, grannies, and grandes.”  Thinking he was only speaking to his co-worker, the pilot did not realize his microphone was on until informed that it was open and broadcasting by air traffic controllers in the tower.  A spokesperson for the airline informed media that the offending pilot was reprimanded and suspended without pay for an unspecified time period.  After a period of LGBTQ sensitivity training, he has been reinstated and is flying the skies again. Corporate and professional amnesia about the effects of homophobic speech and behavior on Southwest Air employees contributed to this regrettable incident.  Kenneth L. Cummings Jr., a longtime Southwest Air Flight Attendant, was brutally murdered by a religious zealot in June 2007.  The grisly slaughter culminated in Cummings’s tortured body being set afire in a shallow stock tank near Poteat, Texas in what his murderer called a “burnt offering to God.”  Southwest Air employees by the score aided in the search for Cummings in an effort co-ordinated by EquuSearch, and uniformed flight attendants, pilots, and company officers attended his funeral to honor him.  But how soon people forget.  Now a pilot in the same organization can rave on about gay people with little or no regard for their humanity, get a slap on the hand, some retraining, and then be put right back on the line, flying LGBTQ people among others to destinations around the world.  Unfinished Lives Team hopes he has learned something from this experience, beyond the old bromide that anything is okay so long as you don’t get caught.  Reports suggest that this pilot had to apologize to air traffic controllers and Southwest employees for his indiscretion as a part of his punishment.  A representative of the Southwest Airlines Employees Union is filing a discrimination complaint with the federal government concerning this matter.  Until then, fly carefully.  You never know who might be at the controls.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, funerals, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Southwest Airlines, stabbings, Texas, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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