4 gruesome deaths in the LGBT community made headlines in August. So, what’s going on?
A secretary in the Dallas Police Department’s public information office this week verbalized the question that was on my mind.
“What’s going on?” she said, referring to the multiple calls I had made to the office about violent crimes committed against LGBT residents. “I never hear from you this much.”
It’s true. I usually call the public information office only once or twice a month to inquire about crimes, but I’ve been calling daily since the beginning of last week. Four gruesome deaths in one month is a startling number for a small community newspaper to be reporting, even if the publication is located in a big city known for its crime problem.
In addition to the four deaths in August, we have a least a half dozen unsolved murders of gay men on the books from the past few years.
The unsolved murders involve gay men who suffered brutal deaths at the hands of unknown people they apparently invited into their lives.
So what is going on?
I called Laura Martin, the police officer appointed to be the department’s liaison to the LGBT community, to ask for her opinion on what seems to be an epidemic of violence.
“You don’t want to talk to strangers, and you certainly don’t want to get in a car with or go home with a stranger,” Martin said.
“People who engage in those types of risk behaviors tend to become victims of crime. We have seen several stories recently that have shown that, but for some reason people continue to engage in that type of behavior.”
That type of behavior apparently led to Enrique Rodriguez’s death in North Dallas three weeks ago. The 62-year-old man liked to sketch nude models he hired from day labor camps while he also went nude, according to police. The last one he picked up reportedly strangled him and left his dead body in a closet. The 17-year-old suspect is in jail charged with capital murder.
Martin said it is dangerous for anyone to hire someone from a day labor camp for any reason, let alone to pose nude. The amount of money you will save is not the worth the risk, she said.
“You’re bringing a stranger into your home,” Martin said. “You’re showing them all of your things, and everything you own. You’re giving them the opportunity to victimize you. They’re not accountable to anyone. They don’t work for a business. You don’t know anything about them.”
It is unclear how long a 51-year-old Romanian national who lived in Mesquite knew the 23-year-old suspect who is jailed on capital murder charges in connection with his death. The victim’s body parts were found strewn across a rural area in Hill County after the suspect, who lived in Austin, allegedly dismembered the body in early August with a hacksaw.
Authorities said the victim, whose identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, and the suspect were involved in a sexual relationship. Oddly, sketches of the suspect drawn by the victim were found in his Mesquite apartment and in the area where his body parts were abandoned.
Martin said people sometimes put themselves in situations where they are easily victimized. And that appears to be the case in the Mesquite murder.
Police suspect that some of the gay men whose deaths remain unsolved in the Dallas area could have met their killers over the Internet. That could account for the scarcity of leads in the cases.
Martin said it is dangerous to arrange a meeting with anyone whose identity is not verifiable.
“If they want to be secretive, there’s probably a reason for that,” Martin said. “They may not have your best interests in mind.”
A gay Dallas massage therapist apparently knew the gunman who entered his Oak Lawn apartment last week demanding money well enough to realize his life was in danger. He tried to jump through a bedroom window to escape but died within an hour from the cuts he received to his head and neck. A police spokeswoman said drugs appeared to have been involved in that crime. No charges have yet been filed in that crime, but the two suspects are likely facing capital murder charges.
And a woman living in North Dallas with her girlfriend knew her ex-husband well enough to attempt to persuade him she was alone in the apartment. But her girlfriend reportedly grabbed the phone and challenged the man to do something about her presence. Within minutes, he fired through the glass patio door and shot the girlfriend 11 times. He is being sought for her murder.
Martin said the lesbian couple might have been unable to deter the ex-husband from killing the girlfriend that day but challenging him only put her at more risk.
“You hate to criticize someone when something like that happens, but you don’t want to announce yourself when someone is angry,” Martin said.
I think Martin, who is a member of our community, offers some pretty good advice for all of us to take to heart. We might want to think twice about the choices we are making in our lives when it comes to behavior, relationships and conflict resolution. It might save our lives.