Woman pleads guilty in case of videotaped beating of trans woman at McDonald’s

Teona Brown, 19, has pled guilty Thursday, Aug. 4, to first degree assault charges and a hate crime charge in connection with the beating of transgender woman Chrissy Polis last April in Towson,

Chrissy Polis

Md. The attack was captured on video by a McDonald’s employee — who filmed the assault rather than step in and try to stop it — last April. The video went viral online and was used, along with new footage from a surveillance camera, in court hearings this week. CBS Baltimore has this report on the plea.

Conviction on a first degree assault charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, and a hate crime conviction could add another 10 years. Because Brown pled guilty to the attack, prosecutors are recommending that the judge sentence her to five years in prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for next month.

Polis was present in court on Thursday, but told reporters she was nervous about being there and had no comment. “I just want to lay low and keep my life as normal as possible,” she said.

A second person charged in the attack was 14 at the time and has been charged with assault as a juvenile. Because she is a minor, her identity has not been released.

Below is a video of a news report aired on the Washington, D.C., Fox news program when the attack happened. It includes video of the attack and, as State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said this week, “The severity of the beating is much easier to understand when you see a video. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, a video’s worth a million.”

—  admin

POLICE BLOTTER: Suspect flashes gun, swipes condoms from Walgreens on Cedar Springs

Dallas police are investigating an aggravated robbery in which the suspect flashed a handgun in the process of stealing two packs of Trojan Magnum condoms from the Cedar Springs Road Walgreen’s early Tuesday.

The suspect, described as a black male, walked into the store at 3802 Cedar Springs at about 12:20 a.m. and asked a manager where the condoms were, according to a police report. After grabbing the condoms, the suspect began to walk out of the store.

When the manager asked the suspect whether he planned to pay for the condoms, he lifted up his shirt and displayed a black handgun. “You don’t want to fuck with me,” the suspect told the manager.

The manager told police he didn’t pursue the suspect because he was in fear for his life. The suspect fled on foot northbound on Cedar Springs — the same direction as the bars.

The two packs of Magnum condoms were valued at $31.98. Walgreen’s planned to provide video of the incident to detectives, the report states.

Sr. Cpl. Gerardo Monreal, a spokesman for DPD, said Wednesday afternoon there had been no arrests in the case.

—  John Wright

Is former Texas Longhorn Cedric Benson gay?

Cedric Benson, left, and alleged victim Charles Clavens

Mark S. King at the Bilerico Project wants to know after Benson, a running back who played at UT and is now in the NFL, was arrested this week for beating the crap out of his “roommate” in Austin. NBC Sports reports that Benson was charged with assault causing bodily injury to a family member:

“According to the affidavit, the roommate [Charles Clavens] was talking on a cell phone on a street corner at 5 a.m. when Benson approached him. Benson allegedly told him they ‘need to talk about their problems’ and then repeatedly hit him in the face. The police report said the roommate was bleeding from the mouth and possibly lost teeth.”

TMZ, for what it’s worth, adds: “Clavens claimed he and Benson began to talk and argue about their living arrangements when all of the sudden Clavens was struck on the left side of his face with a closed fist thrown by Benson. Clavens went on to say that Benson continued to strike him with several more closed fists all over Clavens face resulting in severe injury to his face. Clavens told police he was experiencing severe bleeding from the mouth, possible loss of teeth and massive swelling of the left cheek.”

Benson’s attorneys later alleged an extortion attempt, saying Clavens had threatened to go to the media (with what?) if Benson doesn’t settle.

The Daily Texan notes that this marks the sixth arrest for Benson, a running back who was the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft and now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. And the Bilerico Project’s King wonders why Benson can’t stay out of trouble:

Here we have a man in a heterosexual-dominated field, who has a long time male roommate, who has problems with drugs and alcohol, and real anger issues when it comes to “talking out his problems.” Things that make you go “hmm.”

Do we try to understand Cedric Benson, because he may be a panicked gay man trapped in a living lie, or blame this on a culture of homophobia (internalized and otherwise), or mind our own damn business?

—  John Wright

The Top 10 hotspots for violent crime in Dallas (which no longer includes the Cedar Springs strip)

Last week we told you that violent crime was down 29 percent in the first six months of this year in the roughly 1-square-mile sector that includes the Cedar Springs gay entertainment district and much of Oak Lawn. At the time, we didn’t have a list of violent crime numbers for all 27 of the Dallas Police Department’s Targeted Area Action Grids (TAAGs), which are essentially the city’s worst crime hotspots. But DPD Administrative Sgt. Moises Ochoa followed up by forwarding those statistics on Friday, and they contain more good news: The Wycliff-Maple TAAG (shown above), previously known as the Cedar Springs-Wycliff TAAG, ranked 11th for violent crime among the TAAGs from Jan. 1 through July 11. DPD officials have cautioned against ranking the TAAGs, because they vary somewhat in geographic size and population density. But when we first started reporting on the TAAG statistics two years ago, the Cedar Springs-Wycliff was No. 3 on the list. Below are the top 10 worst hotspots for violent crime in the city of Dallas during the first six months of 2011, according to the statistics provided by DPD. To view the raw data, go here. And for a map showing all the TAAGs, go here.

TAAG: Number of violent offenses

1. Five Points: 100
2. Ross-Bennett: 94
3. WebbChapel-Timberline: 75
4. JuliusSchepps-Central: 73
5. Forest-Audelia: 72
6. Loop 12-Jim Miller: 66
7. Greenville-LBJ: 62
8. Lake June-Buckner: 59
9. JohnWest-Buckner: 57
10. Overton-Illinois: 54
11. Maple-Wycliff: 51

(Based on number of violent offenses recorded Jan. 1 through July 11, 2011. Violent offenses are murder, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault.)

—  John Wright

WATCH: Dallas police seek help identifying suspect in robbery on Wellborn in Oak Lawn

The info below, along with the video from a home surveillance camera, just came across from DPD. Note that police do not believe this robbery is related to one that occurred the night before on Throckmorton Street. Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse told Instant Tea that the suspect descriptions from the two incidents don’t match. There have been no arrests in either case, and both remain under investigation. From DPD:

Armed Robbery Caught on Tape

Dallas Police Robbery Detectives are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying and locating several aggravated robbery suspects who stole a victims property at gunpoint as he was walking down the street. This offense took place on July 12, 2011 at 11:40 pm in the 2700 block of Welborn. The offense was captured on surveillance video and was documented on case #183542-Y.

In the [below] video, the suspect vehicle, described as a small white 4 door vehicle, is seen driving slowly down the street. The vehicle pulls over just out of view and the passenger gets out with a gun. This suspect is described as a black male about 20 -25 years old, standing 6’1”-6’2” and wearing a grey or white tank top. The suspect walks up to the victim and demands his shoulder bag. The second suspect was the driver and never exited the suspect vehicle.

Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information called into Crime Stoppers which leads to the arrest and indictment for this felony offense or any other felony offense. If you have information about this crime or these suspects, please call (214) 373-TIPS (8477) or the Dallas Police Department Robbery Unit at (214) 670-4414.

—  John Wright

DSYD succeeds in effort to ‘Light Up Oak Lawn’

Councilwoman Angela Hunt, left, and DSYD President Jared Pearce

Group notified this week that 45 new lights will be erected in the area within 60 days

DRACONIS VON TRAPP | Intern
intern@dallasvoice.com

After a year of pushing the city for more streetlights in Oak Lawn, Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats saw their efforts pay off this week when city officials announced plans to install 45 new lights in the area.

“We’re excited and think it’s a great thing for the community,” DSYD President Jared Pearce said. “We decided to take on the challenge of improving the street light situation in Oak Lawn because many of us have friends who have been victims of crime in this area. The fact that city officials have listened to us and are taking action to resolve this problem gives us even more drive to make changes that can benefit the entire community.”

The Oak Lawn neighborhood has been afflicted with a disproportionately high crime rate and lack of appropriate street lighting. After a series of muggings in the neighborhood, DSYD got together as a board and the topic of street lighting came up. They then created what is now known as the “Light Up Oak Lawn” campaign.

DSYD then held another meeting at JR’s with members of the community and local businesses to rally support, deciding to take the issue to the City Council, namely District 14 representative Angela Hunt and District 2 representative Pauline Medrano.

Volunteers went on foot around the Oak Lawn area one night and did their own preliminary audit, recording the number of broken streetlights and places that were cloaked in darkness, also taking note of foot traffic and the proximity of residential and business housing.

Along with their audit, DSYD vols also did research on the correlation between street lighting and crime in other cities around the U.S. and the U.K., trying to make as convincing a case as possible. They then took all their blood, sweat and tears and got in contact with Hunt and Medrano.

Nearly seven months later, nothing had been done. DYSD reached out to remind city officials of nearly every mugging that happened in that area — but still no cigar.

“We didn’t want to count on the city for funding,” DYSD Communications Director Michael Maldonado said. “So we went to the city officials to determine what we would need to do and how much it would cost.”

City officials told the group they needed a more thorough audit of the area in which they wanted streetlights erected. So, DSYD volunteers went out and did it all again, making sure to leave no streetlight unchecked and no dark corner unrecorded.

They contacted the city officials again with their new information and finally started to see some progress.

Maldonado said that he doesn’t think the crime in the Oak Lawn area is necessarily LGBT-related, but that there’s “genuinely a lot of traffic in that area,” making it an ideal site for criminals to strike.

In April, the city’s Street Services Department received the DYSD audit and promised look it over and give recommendations.

After an article published in Dallas Voice about yet another mugging, DSYD members finally got the approval to have streetlights posted at every location noted in the audit.

Oncor, the corporation responsible for the lighting in Dallas, was given a work order to put up 45 streetlights within 60 days. The lights will improve visibility and hopefully decrease the night time crime rate in the area bounded by Oak Lawn Avenue, Lemmon Avenue, Wycliff Avenue and Maple Avenue, Maldonado said.

Hunt said she believes the new lights will increase safety not only for the LGBT community of Dallas, but also the residential and business communities that make their home in the Oak Lawn area.

“This is a terrific example of the community and City Hall working together to improve a vital area,” Hunt said.

—  John Wright

Just when you thought it was safe: Violent robbery reported 1 block from Cedar Springs

Earlier we mentioned that violent crime is down 29 percent so far this year in the area surrounding the Cedar Springs strip. But here’s a good reminder that you shouldn’t let your guard down: Those numbers don’t include a particularly violent attempted robbery that occurred late Monday near Throckmorton and Hall streets.

According to a police report, the victims were walking east, away from Cedar Springs, in the 3300 block of Throckmorton Street at about 11:30 p.m. when they passed the two suspects. One of the victims greeted the suspects by saying, “How are you doing?” The suspects didn’t respond, and after walking past the victims, they immediately turned around and confronted them. One of the suspects displayed a black, semi-automatic pistol, pointed it at one of the victims and said, “Give me your money, bitches!”

The suspect then hit the victim twice with the gun in the left side of his face. The victim managed to knock the pistol out of the suspect’s hand, and it fell into the street, where they continued to struggle over it. The suspect punched the victim several times, knocking him to the ground, and the second suspect picked up the pistol. The suspects then started to flee before one of them stopped and yelled to the other, “Let’s check his pockets.”

The suspect approached the victim, who was still on the ground, and attempted to check his pockets. But one of the other victims, fearing the suspect would shoot his friend, came over and began yelling at the suspects, who finally fled north on Hall Street.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said Wednesday morning there have been no arrests in the case, and no suspects have been identified. “Detective is still investigating it,” Janse said in an email.

—  John Wright

Violent crime down near Cedar Springs strip, but vehicle burglaries help fuel overall increase

The Wycliff-Maple TAAG is shown in blue. (Source: DPD)

Violent crime was down 29 percent in the first half of 2011 in the roughly 1-square-mile hotspot that encompasses the Cedar Springs gay entertainment district, according to statistics obtained this week by Instant Tea. However, nonviolent property crimes are on the rise, jumping 23 percent near the strip during the same time period.

The Wycliff-Maple Target Area Action Grid (TAAG), previously known as the Cedar Springs-Wycliff TAAG, recorded 51 violent offenses from Jan. 1 through July 11 of this year, down from 72 offenses year-to-date in 2010, according to the statistics provided by the Dallas Police Department. Violent crimes include murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery. Of those offense types, only aggravated assaults have seen an increase this year in the Wycliff-Maple TAAG, going from 14 in the first six months of 2010 to 17 in 2011. Robberies of individuals, considered the main crime issue for club-goers in the area, fell from 46 last year to 27 this year.

But when it comes to nonviolent crimes, the area has seen big increases in two categories — business burglaries and motor vehicle burglaries. The number of business burglaries nearly doubled, going from 13 in 2010 to 25 this year, while motor vehicle burglaries jumped from 119 to 192. Vehicle thefts stayed the same at 63, while residential burglaries dropped from 62 to 55, and “other thefts” fell from 58 to 53. All told, the number of nonviolent offenses jumped from 315 last year to 388 this year in the Wycliff-Maple TAAG.

Combined with the violent crime numbers, it adds up to a 13 percent increase in what are known as Part 1 offenses in the Wycliff-Maple TAAG this year. The area has seen 439 Part 1 offenses so far in 2011, up from 387 year-to-date in 2010.

That puts the Wycliff-Maple TAAG at No. 5 for Part 1 crimes on a list of 27 similar crime hotspots citywide. The No. 1 crime hotspot in Dallas? Ross-Bennett, which has recorded 695 Part 1 offenses this year. Overall, the 27 TAAGs have seen a combined 15 percent drop in Part 1 crimes.

—  John Wright

Trio robbed at gunpoint in Oak Lawn

A lack of adequate street lighting is being blamed for another robbery near the Cedar Springs strip.

Shane Cain said he and two female friends, all members of the LGBT community, were walking from their vehicle to their apartment complex in the 2900 block of Throckmorton Street at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday when they were robbed at gunpoint by two suspects.

Cain, who lives in the Gardens Apartments at 2910 Thorckmorton, said the first suspect pressed a gun against his face while the second pointed one at his friends and demanded their purses. The suspects then fled on foot.

“We need to get more lighting on Dickason and Throckmorton. It’s just too dark,” Cain told Instant Tea today. “I’ve lived there for four years and nothing’s been done in four years. What does it take, one of us getting killed? If something is well lit, that can act as a deterrent for somebody.”

One of Cain’s friend, Skyy Boopsma, said the suspect “pulled out a gun and said ‘Give me your purse bitch’ and pulled it off my arm.”

According to a police report, the purse and its contents are valued at more than $3,000.

“Everything I own was in my purse,” said Boopsma, who also lives at the Gardens.

Cain said his other friend resisted and attempted to throw her purse over the fence of the apartment complex. The suspect pulled her to the ground and dragged her across the concrete but didn’t get the purse. Cain said the suspects, two black males wearing white T-shirts, took off running toward Dickason Avenue.

Boopsma said she doesn’t believe the incident was an anti-gay hate crime.

Cain said when police responded, they used GPS to track Boopsma’s stolen cell phone to a residence in the vicinity of Knight Street and Lemmon Avenue. He said he believed authorities were trying to obtain a search warrant for the residence.

Sr. Cpl. Sherri Jeffrey, a spokeswoman for DPD, said there had been no arrests as of this afternoon.

Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats has been working to improve street lighting in the Oak Lawn area through it’s Light Up Oak Lawn campaign.

—  John Wright

Another trans person murdered in Houston

Houston police have released a composite sketch (right) of a suspect wanted in the murder of a transgender victim whose body was found behind a trash bin at an apartment complex early Monday.

The vicitm, identified as 44 year-old Nathan Eugene Davis, was wearing a red dress, makeup and a wig when found shot to death at about 12:30 a.m., the Houston Chronicle reports. KPRC Channel 2 identifies Davis in a headline as “a cross-dressing male prostitute.”

Davis’ is the latest of several murders in Houston involving transgender victims over the last few years.

In March, a homeless man was arrested and charged in two of the murders.

Anyone with information about Davis’ murder should call the Houston Police Department’s homicide division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at at 713-222-TIPS.

—  John Wright