Of the 12 — or more — attacks on gay men in Oak Lawn since the first of September, only one has been classified as a possible hate crime. That’s because that is the only one of the robberies/assaults in which the victim was able to say definitively that the men who robbed and beat him used anti-gay slurs while they were robbing and beating him.
These other attacks, according to the way the hate crimes law works, can’t be investigated or classified as hate crimes — at least not at this time — because no one can say there was anti-gay language used. And since the victims were robbed — or at least, their assailants tried to rob them — police can’t say that anti-gay sentiment played any role in the motives for the crimes.
But guess what: That doesn’t mean it doesn’t either. Perhaps the “primary” motive was just robbery. But I would be willing to bet that some form of homophobia or anti-gay hatred played a part in whom these assailants chose to rob.
And no, I am not just saying that to try to sensationalize the sensation and “create headlines” for Dallas Voice. I am saying that based on what two men who have been convicted and executed for crimes against gay men told me.
Who remembers Nicholas West? You know, the young gay man who, in November 1993, was kidnapped from Tyler’s Bergfeld Park and taken to a gravel pit near Noonday, where he was beaten and then shot to death. A man named Donald Aldrich was arrested less than a month later, and in his confession, he bragged about killing West because West was gay and Aldrich hated gay people.
Two years later, in July 1995, I drove down to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Ellis Unit, just outside of Huntsville, to talk to Aldrich face to face. He had agreed to the interview because he wanted to tell me — so I could tell the LGBT community — that he didn’t really hate gay people and that he was, in fact, at least bisexual himself.
He told me he only told Smith County officers that he hated gays, because he figured they hated gays, too, and might give him a break. Then a few weeks after the interview, Aldrich mailed me a piece of cross-stitch he had done. It was a pink triangle on a background with all the rainbow colors. I kept it thumb-tacked to the wall of my cubicle at the Dallas Voice offices on Carlisle for years.
But he told me something else that was — and is — very, very important: It didn’t matter whether he or Henry Dunne or David McMillan — his two co-defendants — actually hated gay men. They targeted gay men because they believed gay men were easy targets.
“Aldrich does not deny that he was involved in the events that led up to West’s murder. And he does not deny that he was involved in a string of robberies and carjackings in the month or so before West’s death.
“What he does deny is that the crimes were committed, at least on his part, out of any sort of hatred for gays. The gay men were targeted, he said, because “Homosexuals make themselves easy targets. They don’t report these crimes, because they don’t want anyone to know they’re gay.
“Think about it,” he added. “You want to make some easy money, and you’re going to do it illegally. Are you going to rob a gas station where the whole thing will end up on videotape and you might get $40 or $50? Or are you going to go across the street to the park where the homosexuals hang out and rob them, where you know there won’t be any videotape and [the victim] won’t report it?
“Hey, you go where the money is, and that’s one reason why I got in this in the first place, to make some fast, easy cash.”
Aldrich, who was executed by lethal injection on Oct. 12, 2004, for his role in West’s murder, made it clear: Maybe he and his cohorts in crime didn’t actually hate gay people, but they definitely and deliberately targeted gay people.
(Dunne was executed in 2003, and McMillan was sentenced to life in prison, by the way.)
Want another example? I have one.
On May 18, 1997, Aaron Foust and Jamal Brown murdered David Ward, a gay man who worked as an administrator at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Foust was convicted and sentenced to death. But before he was shipped off to the Ellis Unit in Huntsville to await his execution — which happened on April 28, 1999, after Foust refused any appeals — Foust agreed to sit down and talk to me.
I met him in a small room at the Tarrant County Jail, and we sat across a folding table from each other as we talked, with a guard sitting just outside the door. Foust told me that day that he and Brown went after Ward because Ward’s ex-boyfriend owed Foust money for drugs. But Foust killed Ward because he was gay.
“If he had been a straight, married man, with a wife and kids, I’d have let him live,” Foust said of Ward. “Or if he’d been single [and heterosexual], I probably wouldn’t have killed him. I would have kicked his ass, but I probably wouldn’t have killed him.”
When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter if these criminals are coming to Oak Lawn to beat and rob people because they hate gays or because they just think gays are easy targets; it doesn’t matter if the robberies are the main point of the attacks and the beatings are just after-thoughts because the victims are gay.
What matters is that gay people in the gayborhood are being targeted for whatever reason. And as far as I am concerned, that makes these crimes of bias based on the sexual orientation of the victims.