Police seek suspects in NE Dallas attack that left victims unconscious
Two black gay men are recovering from a hate crime after they were attacked with baseball bats in an area of northeast Dallas where a hate crime has never been reported.
The two men, 20 and 27, were walking near the corner of Audelia Road and Forest Lane around 2 a.m. on Tuesday, March 13, when a dark four-door vehicle with 24-inch rims, which Dallas police believe could be a Buick, approached them. An estimated five black men in their 20s yelled “fags and sissy” at the two men before three exited, two with baseball bats, and began to beat them, according to police reports.
The 27-year-old was hit at least four times in the head with a baseball bat before losing consciousness, the report states.
The 20-year-old tried to fight back and was caught in the passenger’s side of the vehicle. He was dragged an unknown distance before he could escape. He was in and out of consciousness, the report states.
When the two regained consciousness they transported themselves to Medical City Hospital, which is about 4 miles from the location they were attacked.
The 27-year-old had bruising and swelling on his head, bruising on his stomach, a black eye and scrapes on a knee, according to reports. The younger man sustained a 2-inch cut on the side of his head, a 1-inch cut on his nose, bruising and swelling to both eyes and cheekbones, chipped upper teeth, scrapes on a toe and finger, and 2-inch scrapes on his shoulder and stomach.
Medical City Hospital spokeswoman Chris Hawes said the two men had been released as of Thursday morning.
Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison officer for the Dallas Police Department, said the victims didn’t know the attackers and gave officers vague descriptions, only noticing the dark four-door vehicle and that they appeared to be in their 20s.
The lack of a better description makes police reliant on witnesses who saw the attack or know the attackers.
“We’re really depending on the public to come forward. Maybe someone saw something, and we’re hopeful that we’ll have a good witness, but right now really all we have is the victims and the vague description,” Martin said.
Venton Jones, a spokesman for the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition, wrote in an email to Dallas Voice that a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found violent crimes against LGBT people rose 13 percent in 2010 and that people of color and transgender women were more likely to be targeted. The report also found that people in those groups were least likely to report violence.
“In times of economic uncertainty, disenfranchised and marginalized populations like gay and bisexual men of color are frequently targeted for hate speech and violence,” Jones wrote.
Derrick Spillman, executive director of DFW Pride Movement, said he doesn’t think black gay men are targeted any more than other members of the LGBT community.
“Being a black gay man in the African-American community I don’t think is any less challenging than in any other community,” he said. “Just being different is something that makes people a target.”
Spillman said the incident struck a fearful cord throughout the gay community. He said safety and prevention efforts by police and the community need to be taken.
“This is something that is very unfortunate,” Spillman said. “It not only placed the young men that this happened to in a fear for their life, but a lot of gay men or African-American gay men in general, who tend to stand out a little bit more, it makes us all begin to think about, ‘When will it be our day? Will this ever happen to us?’”
The Forest-Audelia area has been identified by Dallas police as one of 27 crime hotspots citywide, and it ranked third for violent crimes in 2011 with 176 offenses.
However, Martin said this is the first hate crime reported in the area.
“We haven’t had anything in that area before, not a hate crime,” she said.
In light of a hate crime occurring in an area that many in the gay community might not see as a targeted area, Martin said for people to stay aware of their surroundings using general safety precautions such as walking in groups late at night.
“Basically, be extra vigilant,” she said. “Be aware that it happened. All we can do is ask people to beware that there was someone over there that targeted two people for their perceived sexual orientation.”
The police reports classify the crimes as aggravated assaults, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
However, the crimes could be prosecuted as first-degree felonies because under Texas’ hate crime statute, an offense is enhanced to the next highest category if found to be a hate crime. A first-degree felony is punishable by up to life in prison.
In May 2011, two men, both 28, were robbed after four Hispanic men jumped them on Throckmorton Street near Congress Avenue on their way to the Cedar Springs strip. One was struck with a baseball bat while a gay slur was yelled at him, breaking his jaw. Dallas police didn’t initially classify it as a hate crime, doing so three days later.
Hate crimes are classified by the FBI as being motivated “in whole or in part” by sexual-orientation bias, a primary indicator of which is “oral comments” made by attackers during an offense.
Police immediately identified Tuesday’s incident as a hate crime, though Martin declined to “discuss the sexual orientation of the victims to respect their privacy.” She noted that hate crimes can be based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. The Crimes Against Persons Unit is investigating the incident, and the FBI’s civil rights division will follow up in case more help is needed, she said.
According to the FBI’s 2010 hate crime statistics for Texas, there were 34 incidents based on sexual orientation, 75 against race, 19 for religion, 28 for ethnicity and one for disability. Dallas and Fort Worth were tied for second-most crimes based on sexual orientation, which accounted for five of Dallas’s 11 hate crimes and five of Fort Worth’s 14.
Houston ranked first in hate crimes based on sexual orientation, according to FBI data, with six out its 13 total complaints relating to sexual orientation.
Other cities that had a complaint for sexual orientation had one or two, with the only number higher coming from Austin with three .
Anyone with information about the incident should contact Dallas police Detective Chris Anderson at 214-671-3616.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 16, 2012.