Police blotter: Hit-and-run on Cedar Springs

Valentine’s Day got off to a bad start when a motorist intentionally struck two pedestrians near Havana Bar & Grill on Cedar Springs Road early Monday, according to police reports.

Reports say the suspect and the victim, a 39-year-old black male, got into an argument that became a physical fight at about 2 a.m. at 4008 Cedar Springs Road. After a security guard stepped in to break up the fight, the suspect got in a vehicle and intentionally accelerated toward the victim. The suspect’s vehicle struck the victim as well as a witness, before the suspect fled northbound on Cedar Springs Road. The two injured people were taken to Parkland hospital.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said Tuesday that police hadn’t made any arrests.

“Victim is claiming he doesn’t remember what happened,” Janse said. “No one knows the suspect and there are conflicting stories about what really took place. Detectives will continue to try to get to the bottom of what really happened. It is unknown the condition of the victim at this time.”

The suspect’s vehicle is described as a cream-colored, four-door Nissan. Anyone with information can call the Crimes Against Persons Division at 214- 671-3584.

—  John Wright

Funeral services today in Rowlett for murdered gay restaurant owner Aaron Cheung

Aaron Cheung

A memorial service for Aaron Cheung, a gay restaurant owner who was found shot to death in northeast Dallas on Sunday, will be at 3 p.m. today at Resthaven Funeral Chapel, at 3761 Rowlett Road, in Rowlett.

Alex Ortega, one of Cheung’s best friends, said everyone who knew him is invited. Ortega said Cheung was an only child and he hopes the service will help his parents cope.

“I think it’s a really good thing for his family to be able to see how many people he affected,” Ortega said. “He really did do a lot for people who were in his life. If he cared about you, he would give you the world. He would do just about anything to help you out.”

Meanwhile, authorities say the homeless man arrested for using Cheung’s debit card remains a “person of interest” in his murder. Charles Edward Freeman, 58, is charged with fraudulent use or possession of identifying information and is being held on $50,000 bail.

“There’s not enough evidence to list him as a suspect,” said Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD. “It’s going to take some forensic evidence before they can list him as a suspect.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Dallas Police Department’s homicide unit at 214-671-3661.

—  John Wright

Dallas police seek info in gay man’s murder

Moments ago the Dallas Police Department sent out the below alert seeking information in the murder of Aaron Cheung, a 27-year-old gay man who was found fatally shot in northeast Dallas on Sunday morning.

According to the alert, an unknown suspect wearing a black hoodie and black pants was seen running from the scene of Cheung’s murder.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD, confirmed Monday afternoon that investigators don’t believe the incident was a hate crime.

“Nothing leads the detectives to believe his sexual orientation played a role in this offense,” Janse said. “Robbery is believed to be the motive. No suspect or witnesses at this time.”

Anyone with information is asked to call homicide at 214-671-3661 or 214-671-3618.

—  John Wright

Another robbery victim kidnapped at gunpoint in Uptown Dallas, forced to drive to ATM

The second incident began at 4151 McKinney Ave. early Monday morning.

Dallas police say the same suspect may be responsible for two recent aggravated robberies in the Uptown and Oak Lawn area that involved victims being kidnapped and forced to drive to ATMs to withdraw money.

The first incident, which we reported on Tuesday, occurred late Sunday and began in the Office Depot parking lot on Oak Lawn Avenue, at 2929 Oak Lawn Ave.

The second incident began at 6:45 a.m. Monday in an alleway at 4151 McKinney Ave., according to police reports. The victim reportedly is an employee at the Katy Trail Animal Hospital.

“Detectives are looking to see if they are related,” DPD Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse said of the two incidents on Wednesday. “The suspect description is very similar. We suggest people call ahead to their place of business or home and have someone waiting on them when they arrive to make sure they get inside safely. This lady [the second victim] did the right thing and complied with the demands.”

The suspect is described as a black male about 40 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing about 220 pounds. He has a scar under his right eye and was wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and a black hat at the time of the first incident. Anyone with information should call 214-671-4071 or 911.

If you’ll recall, there was a similar rash of aggravated robberies in Oak Lawn last year. The suspect in those cases was finally caught after David Ethridge, a gay victim, chased him down and obtained a license plate number from his vehicle.

—  John Wright

Same-sex rape reported in Oak Lawn during Pride — and a prevention message from DPD

No sooner had a Dallas police spokesman sent over some requested info about a same-sex rape in Oak Lawn over the weekend, than we noticed the above video from DPD about sexual assault prevention. And wouldn’t you know it, the major risk factors described in the video appear to have been very much at work in this weekend’s case. According to the video, alcohol is the No. 1 factor in sex assaults, and in 60 percent of cases the suspect is known to the victim. The video also says that one out of every 33 males in the U.S. will be a victim of sexual assault.

The rape occurred at about 5:30 p.m. on Sunday — the day of gay Pride — in the 4000 block of Fairmont Street, and it involved the suspect penetrating the victim’s anus, according to police reports. Here’s DPD Sr. Cpl’s Kevin Janse’s description:

The victim, a Latino male, was invited over to the suspect’s house and they began drinking. They are friends and have known each other for about a month. A knife was pulled and victim was sexually assaulted. Suspect was arrested down the street. Jimmy Ford, a 23-year-old black male, is charged with aggravated sexual assault.

Here are a few tips from DPD for preventing sexual assault, which has been on the rise in Dallas this year:

• Be aware of your surroundings; know where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing.

• When consuming alcohol at clubs, bars, or restaurants, watch your drink; don’t leave it unattended, even for a few seconds.

• Don’t accept a drink handed to you by a stranger or anyone you have just met.

• If you feel you have been drugged, call 911 immediately.

• Trust your instincts. If something about the situation or the person just does not feel right, it probably is not. Get out of the situation as soon as possible.

—  John Wright

UPDATED: Man robbed at gunpoint just 1 block from strip; suspects make off with $500 in cash

Between the shooting of Doug Tull and another holdup last week on Travis Street, it sure seems as though there’s been a rash of gun-involved robberies targeting gay bar patrons of late.

The most recent robbery occurred at 10:15 p.m. Friday at 4000 Dickason Ave., which is at the intersection of Reagan Street, just one block from the Cedar Springs strip.

The suspects pointed a gun at the 21-year-old white male victim and demanded his property, before making off with $500 in cash and a cell phone valued at $500, according to police reports.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said Tuesday that no arrests have been made in the case. The suspects are described as two Latin males in their 20s, Janse said. One is about 5 feet, 8 inches tall and was wearing a white shirt at the time of the robbery.

“There is no evidence that links this to any other robberies in the area,” Janse said.

UPDATE: The victim, who asked not to be identified, said he had walked around the corner from JR.’s  to retrieve his keys from a friend’s car that was parked on Dickason Avenue. He said he was leaning into the car when the two suspects came out of nowhere and put a gun to his head.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, are they going to shoot me? Is this a hate crime or am I about to get mugged?’” he said. “I had no idea what was going on. It was the quickest thing ever, but I’ve never been more scared in my life.”

The victim, who’s gay, said he thinks bars in the area need to do a better job of making it safe.

“I really feel like the bars need to step up their game,” he said. “They need to invest in the people who spend the money, and they need to protect them.”

As he was running back to JR’s, the victim said he saw one of the suspects fleeing behind Woody’s and notified a security guard. “The security guard wouldn’t do anything. He told me I needed to chill out.”

The victim said he was carrying a large amount of cash because he was in a fender bender earlier in the day and had been unable to go to the bank.

“I was alone. It was stupid,” he said, adding that the suspects must have thought they hit the lottery. “I would never even think that that area would be a safety issue.”

The victim said he doesn’t plan to go back to the area anytime soon.

“You just have to be careful, especially with the whole gay Pride thing coming up,” he said. “It’s just scary. I don’t even know how it happened. It’s kind of like a dream, a bad, bad dream — a nightmare.”

—  John Wright

Dozens of vehicles vandalized at ilume

Dallas police estimate that 20-25 vehicles were vandalized Sunday afternoon while parked in the garage at ilume, the posh new development on the Cedar Springs strip.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD, said the vehicles appeared to have been “keyed,” although the suspect could have used a screwdriver or anything sharp.

Janse said only four victims have called in reports to police thus far, but it’s estimated that 20-25 vehicles were damaged. He added that there’s no reason to believe the incident was an anti-gay hate crime.

Janse said police have no suspect description, and there were no security cameras in the area of the garage where the incidents occurred.

Total monetary damages are unknown, but one victim who reported the incident estimated $3,000 in damage to his Hummer.

—  John Wright

DPD, W hotel investigating gay man’s complaint against officer

GLBT Chamber chair says officer working security at hotel choked him in anti-gay incident after concert

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Derrick Brown
Derrick Brown

The chair of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce filed a complaint this week against a Dallas police officer who allegedly choked him during a confrontation outside the W-Dallas Victory hotel following a Lady Gaga concert on Friday, July 23.

Derrick Brown filed the complaint on Wednesday, July 28, against Officer F. Phelps, who was off-duty and working security for the hotel at the time of the incident.

Phelps, who was in uniform, reportedly accused Brown of grabbing his buttocks as they crossed paths near the street entrance to Ghostbar, a business inside the hotel.

“A group of us were walking to Ghostbar after the concert,” Brown said in a message posted online Saturday, July 24. “The off-duty officer claimed that I grabbed him (which I did not). When trying to tell him so, he grabbed my neck, pushed and pinned me against the wall by my neck telling me to shut up. Needless to say, I am outraged and will ensure action is taken to prevent it happening to someone else in our community.”

Brown was traveling this week and couldn’t be reached for further comment. Another member of Brown’s group who witnessed the incident didn’t respond to a phone message.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Brown had filed a complaint against Phelps.

“There has been a complaint filed with our internal affairs division and an investigation has begun into the allegations against the officer,” Janse said. “This process will take some time so that we can conduct a very thorough investigation.”

Janse would not provide a copy of Brown’s complaint, saying the newspaper would need to file a formal records request.

The confrontation with Brown was one of two separate incidents involving Phelps and gay hotel patrons that occurred just minutes apart after the concert at the nearby American Airlines Center.

Another gay leader, Malcolm Gage, alleges that Phelps threatened him with arrest after he tried to enter the hotel to visit a friend who was staying there.

Gage, director of finance at Park Place Volvo and a board member for the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said he also planned to file a complaint with DPD.

“I took issue with the attitude of the officer and the way he was treating us and what the W did, but with Derrick it’s considerably more serious because he [Phelps] attacked him,” Gage told Dallas Voice. “This guy screams at Derrick and says, ‘You grabbed my ass.’ Derrick’s issue is a much bigger issue.”

Gage said he and his roommate drove from the Lady Gaga concert and parked their vehicle using the hotel’s valet service. As they walked toward the main entrance of the hotel, they were stopped by a security guard who told them they needed a room key to come in.

When Gage explained that they were visiting a hotel guest, the security guard said they would need to call their friend and have him come down to meet them.

Gage, who says he visits the hotel frequently, questioned why this was necessary and said it was a major inconvenience because their friend was already entertaining other guests.

The security guard then summoned Phelps and another off-duty DPD officer. Phelps reportedly told Gage, “Look here man, if you don’t leave the property I’m going to arrest you for criminal trespassing.”

Words were exchanged between the parties before the second DPD officer pulled Gage aside and said, “If this were off [hotel] property then this probably would have been a little more physical removal, so I’m being nice right now by talking to you,” according to Gage.

The hotel’s night manager arrived and asked Gage and his roommate to leave. When Gage asked for a valid reason, Phelps said, “You need to do what I say.”

As Gage and his roommate left, Phelps said things like, “What you going to do now?” according to Gage.

“I would like to notify you that I plan to not only file formal complaints against the officers mentioned, but I will do everything in my legal rights to make sure that this does not happen to another member of the Dallas LGBT community,” Gage wrote in a letter to the general manager of the W hotel. “I feel that we were discriminated against because we were gay and the hotel staff was just as much at fault as the officers involved.”

The general manager, Thomas Caramucci, told Dallas Voice in a statement that the hotel is investigating.

“We are aware of the incident and are currently looking further into the details of the situation, in cooperation with the Dallas Police Department,” Caramucci said. “Please know that the safety and comfort of our guests is our top priority and any and all situations receive our utmost attention.  … As you are aware W Dallas-Victory and the W brand are a strong supporters of the LGBT community and we appreciate the opportunity to respond.”

The W Dallas-Victory is owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which maintains a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

“As previously stated, the safety and comfort of our guests is a top priority,” Caramucci said in a follow-up statement. “To meet that end, in instances where large crowds are involved (i.e. popular concerts, Victory Park events, New Year’s Eve, etc.) it is our policy to request that anyone entering the front lobby doors present a key card to gain entry after 9:00 PM. Extra security is also hired to help ensure the added safety and enjoyment of our patrons. Though no one involved in Friday’s incident was a hotel guest, we take any situation that occurs on our property very seriously and are continuing to investigate the matter.

“W Dallas-Victory and the W brand are strong supporters of the LGBT community, and the hotel values the relationship and rapport we have built,” Caramucci added. “We have and will continue to demonstrate our support by participating in the local pride parade, Pride in the Park, BubbleQ and other events and fundraisers. Additionally, we offer our Pride 365 Package year-round.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas