Oil company president arrested for attacking gay Texas Instruments executive
Andy Smith and Paul von Wupperfeld were walking south along Austin’s Colorado Street on April 18, at about 10:25 p.m., when a truck “came barreling out of the parking lot on our left, almost hitting us,” Smith wrote in his statement to Austin police. “I hollered out, ‘you nearly hit us.’ To which the driver replied, ‘Fuck you faggot.’”
Smith responded, “What did you say?”
“Fuck you faggot,” the man answered. He stopped his truck in a lane of traffic, got out and the exchange escalated.
Smith told him he couldn’t call them that.
“You make me stop,” he said. “I’ll kick your ass.”
Smith wrote that he thinks he said, “What are you going to do? Hit me?”
Before he was knocked unconscious, Smith wrote, he remembered seeing a mean look on the man’s face.
Von Wupperfeld, Smith’s husband, continued the narrative in a separate statement to police.
After hitting Smith, Von Wupperfeld wrote, the man ran to his car and drove off. But he stopped to see what happened. By the time von Wupperfeld reached Smith, he told police, Smith’s “face was swollen and bloody from where he had been punched, with cuts on his nose, right cheek and chin. He was unconscious for around 30-45 seconds. When he came around he was groggy and disoriented.”
A number of witnesses saw the assault and took video with their phones. Police were called and responded quickly.
Smith and von Wupperfeld declined to comment for this story, saying they don’t want to jeopardize the prosecution in the case. They did not, however, object to Dallas Voice publishing the facts of the incident, in hopes that it will be a warning to others in the LGBT community to be safe.
Pictures taken at the scene included the license plate number on the pickup driven by the man who attacked Smith, allowing police to trace the pickup to Anthony Fera, president of an Austin-based oil company. He’s best known as the father of University of Texas Longhorn football team’s 2013 star placekicker.
Fera has been arrested several other times in Texas and Pennsylvania.
Austin Police Det. Jason Barto said evidence has been sent to the district attorney’s office and it’s up to them to present evidence to the grand jury to decide whether to add hate crime charges.
Rafael McDonnell, Resource Center communications and advocacy manager, said this week he worries that this sort of thing might happen more as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares for its marriage equality ruling.
“The LGBT community has some bubbles — Oak Lawn, Montrose — places like that where we can feel perfectly safe,” McDonnell said. “The sad fact is the rest of the state isn’t necessarily like that.”
He said the coverage surrounding Caitlyn Jenner’s transition is bookended with coverage of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“Those are major visibility events for the LGBT community,” McDonnell said. “There’s lots of discussion. Those who are not supporters might feel the need to lash out.”
During times of higher visibility for the LGBT community, attacks based on hate may rise. McDonnell recommended that as the community celebrates a high-profile athlete transitioning and the same-sex couples gaining freedom to marry, everyone should be vigilant.
“People should take whatever steps they need to take to make sure they’re safe,” McDonnell said.
He suggested walking in groups after dark, taking self-defense classes and having a cell phone available to call for help. Use common sense, he said.
But McDonnell believes a lot of the anger will subside as more and more opponents realize marriage equality doesn’t affect them or whether an athlete comes out as transgender doesn’t affect them.
“It’s the last gasp of dinosaurs,” McDonnell said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 12, 2015.