Dominguez says he refuses to let this happen in the city in which he chooses to live
Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez, Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk, Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano and Dallas Police Department’s Maj. Max Garon joined Equality Texas and local hate crime survivors Monday, April 11, to announce the release of a video on the attacks that took place in Oak Lawn last fall.
The video was released as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week activities, and was announced in a press conference at Dallas Police Department headquarters in The Cedars. A second premiere screening was held April 14 at Austin Police headquarters.
Garon credited increased patrols in the area for decreased crime in Oak Lawn since the beginning of the year and encouraged crime victims who have not reported incidents to the police to come forward.
“Give us an opportunity to hear what you have to say and investigate the crime,” Garon urged.
He said only two of the approximately 20 attacks that happened in the gayborhood last fall are classified as hate crimes. In those two assaults, survivors remember the assailants calling them faggot or other anti-gay slurs, Garon explained.
Michael Dominguez has no memory of being attacked on Cedar Springs Road outside S4 last fall, so he can’t provide police with the kind of evidence that would support hate crime charges. But since his assailants took nothing from him, ruling out robbery as the motive, Dominguez said investigators shouldn’t discount the possibility that the attack was a hate crime.
But that doesn’t dampen his praise for the work police have been doing.
“There’s no us or them,” he said. “This department has really stepped up.”
Dominguez explained why he’s been so active since he was attacked, saying, “If I don’t speak up, who is going to? I refuse to let this happen in the city [where] I chose to live. No one should live in fear.”
Burke Burnett was the victim of an anti-gay attack near Paris, Texas in 2011. Since the rash of assaults began in Oak Lawn last fall, he has become active in efforts to help people who are now going through what he experienced five years ago. This, Burnett said, is an ugly period for Dallas’ LGBT community.
He said he is focused on finding solutions through a support group for victims, with referrals to more extensive counseling if necessary, referrals to attorneys and state crime victims compensation assistance. Burnett said the LGBT community is much better equipped to help a survivor of a violent crime now than when the series of attacks began just a few months ago.
Hawk said she is anxious to see some arrests made and promised to prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law.
“If we believe we can prove a hate crime, we will prosecute,” the D.A. said.
Valdez said beatings or abuse of any kind are never acceptable: “No one deserves to become a victim.”
The sheriff went on to comment on the community’s response, noting, “We work best when we work together.”
Medrano, who represents the neighborhood where the attacks took place, agreed with Valdez and complimented the work of SOS–Survivors Offering Support, Take Back Oak Lawn and the increasing numbers community members involved in Volunteers on Patrol.
But because no one has been arrested, Medrano said he is still frustrated.
“As someone who grew up in the neighborhood and lives in the area,” he said, “they haven’t caught anybody and that bothers me.”
Medrano noted that the city has moved to improve safety in the gayborhood by installing 10 high-definition police cameras in the area and by adding more lighting on darker streets.
Equality Texas Board President Steve Rudner, who has a gay son, stressed that discrimination the root of hate crimes. “It is not fair to have to worry about your child being attacked,” he said. “It’s also not fair to worry about him being discriminated against.”
Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said he was impressed with the level of community response and how well the police and sheriff’s departments are working with the LGBT community and city hall.
Smith blamed sexist, anti-gay, anti-immigrant rhetoric in political campaigns and the anti-LGBT legislation passing in state legislatures for the increase in violence targeting people for who they are and called that unacceptable.
Dominguez joined Rudner and Smith in Austin on Thursday for the Austin release of the video.•
The 5-minute video can be seen at Vimeo.com/160154007
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2016.