Suspect in Log Cabin assault is servicemember; incident may still be classified as hate crime

Posted on 03 May 2011 at 10:20am
Officer Laura Martin

The suspect accused of assaulting a member of Log Cabin Republicans and calling him a “faggot” on Saturday at the Hilton Anatole is a member of the military, according to Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer.

Martin said a police report from the incident indicates that the suspect, a 27-year-old male, is a supervisor or sergeant in the military who was responding to perceived sexual harassment of a subordinate. Other sources suggested that the suspect is a member of the Marines. The suspect’s name is being withheld because Dallas Voice doesn’t typically identify people charged with misdemeanors.

DPD declined to release a copy of the police report from the incident, which occurred at about 1 a.m. Saturday in the lobby bar of the Hilton Anatole, where Log Cabin was holding its National Convention.

Martin said even though the victim has chosen not to press charges — meaning the case will not be prosecuted — DPD may classify the incident as an anti-gay hate crime for the purposes of reporting it to the FBI. She said the police report indicates that someone at the victim’s table — but not the victim — “catcalled” and made sexual gestures toward someone at the suspect’s table, adding that both the suspect and the victim were intoxicated at the time of the incident.

“Someone who was at the complainant’s [victim's] table saw someone who he thought was attractive at another table. When he pointed him out and when the guy got up to to go to the restroom, at least one person catcalled him and made sexual gestures in an obvious manner,” Martin said. “So he went back to his table and told his supervisor, who is also in the military. The supervisor went over then to the table where the guys were to say, ‘Please stop.’ When he went over there to the table the complainant [victim] stood up as he was addressing the group, and the arrested person viewed that as aggressive toward him, so he pushed him down, and that’s how he became injured. I don’t know if the complainant was standing up because he needed to go to the restroom, or if he was standing up to argue, or if he was standing up to stretch his legs, but the guy who was arrested said he viewed it as aggressive.”

The suspect was cited for class-C misdemeanor assault, but later that day the victim opted not to press charges after the suspect apologized for the incident and both acknowledged they were under the influence of alcohol, Martin said.

Martin also confirmed that the suspect called the victim a “faggot” during the alleged assault. The victim, who suffered a minor cut to his nose, has disputed DPD’s account of the incident, saying the suspect smashed his face into a glass tumbler while he was seated. However, the victim declined to discuss the incident further with Instant Tea and asked that his name continue to be withheld.

A representative from Log Cabin Republicans National, which happens to be a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers, declined comment.

Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, called the incident “heartbreaking” and disputed the police department’s version of events. However, Schlein said even if the police account is accurate, it doesn’t justify the suspect’s actions.

“The response was not merited under ANY set of circumstances!” Schlein wrote. “The fact it was a Marine being on offensive makes matters even worse because he should be better trained to have more control than the general population in that circumstance. It’s easy to sympathize with a man coming back from a tour of duty, but please don’t let that cloud your proper judgment in this particular situation.”

A police spokesman told Instant Tea on Saturday that the suspect’s use of the word “faggot” was provoked by the whistling and the catcalling from the other table. Martin said  although she wouldn’t have felt provoked in the same situation, it’s possible that the victim’s decision to stand up was perceived as offensive.

“I don’t think that any assault is ever really provlked, but I think when people have been drinking, sometimes behavior is misinterpreted,” Martin said. “All I can say is that based on the suspect’s description of events, he felt provoked. There’s never an excuse for an assault, which is why he was given the ticket.”

Martin added that she thinks the incident has been blown out of proportion.

“I think both parties agreed that they were intoxicated and it got out of hand,” she said. “I think it was just a discussion that got out of hand. If the complainant is willing to put it behind him and it’s not worth his time to come back into town and pursue criminal charges, I think what’s done is done.”

Martin said if a victim isn’t willing to testify, the department generally can’t pursue charges except in family violence cases.

DPD’s intelligence unit will make a determination about whether to classify the incident as having been motivated by bias based on sexual orientation, she said. The classification would trigger a report of the incident to the FBI, but as of Monday, a decision had not been made.

According to the FBI’s Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines, “bias-related oral comments” are one of the main criteria for classifying an incident as a hate crime. The guidelines list a suspect shouting a racial epithet at a victim as a prime example of a bias-related oral comment.

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