What’s Brewing: El Paso teen arrested in brutal beating outside gay nightclub

The Old Plantation in downtown El Paso.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A 16-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault in connection with a brutal beating last weekend outside the Old Plantation gay nightclub in downtown El Paso, the El Paso Times reports today. Police say they believe the attack was gang related and aren’t treating the incident as a hate crime, even though family members and LGBT activists insist the victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, was targeted only because he was outside a gay venue. Martinez, who’s straight but had been to the Old Plantation with friends, remains in critical condition and has not regained consciousness since the attack last Friday night or Saturday morning. The FBI reportedly is investigating the incident as a possible civil rights violation, and more arrests are expected. A total of six people were involved in the attack, and a security guard says there’s been an upswing of gang activity around the nightclub. But just because something is gang related doesn’t mean it’s not a hate crime. In fact, it’s quite common for gang initiations to include bashing a queer, and here’s a story about another hate crime that occurred just a week before.

2. The Ugandan Parliament has adjourned without taking up an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that includes a death penalty provision, the Associated Press reports. The bill was slated to be considered today, but the speaker of the parliament says there isn’t enough time to debate the bill before the session ends next week.

3. A new poll shows that a majority of Minnesotans oppose a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The Minnesota Senate voted to place such an amendment on the 2012 ballot this week, and the House is expected to follow suit. But the poll shows that 55 percent oppose the amendment, while only 39 percent support it. Just seven years ago, a poll found that 58 percent of Minnesotans supported a ban on same-sex marriage.

—  John Wright

Victim’s sister says El Paso beating was anti-gay hate crime; police say victim still unconscious

El Paso police say they’ve been unable to determine whether a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub early Saturday was a hate crime because the victim remains unconscious. Detective Mike Baranyay, a spokesman for the police department, told Instant Tea that the 22-year-old victim suffered a serious head injury in the attack. The victim was punched, kicked and hit with a baseball bat by six attackers outside the Old Plantation nightclub, where he’d been waiting for a ride.

“He’s got pretty critical injuries,” Baranyay said this afternoon. “At this point we can’t confirm that it’s a hate crime or it’s not. Hopefully by tomorrow we’ll have some idea.”

Although police say don’t know whether the attack was a hate crime, the victim’s sister told KTSM-TV that even though her brother is not gay, she believes it was:

We spoke with the victim’s sister, Deanne Martinez, this morning at UMC where her brother is still listed in critical condition.

Martinez was there Saturday night and witnessed the attack. ”He was on the floor laying there knocked out and they still kept bashing his head with a bat. That to me is so cowardly.”

Martinez says she and another family member tried to stop the attack but the men turned on them. “I was trying to pull out my brother and she was pushing off the guys. They ended up bashing her Jeep Liberty.”

So far police say they have no evidence to call the attack a hate crime. Martinez calls that ridiculous.

She says her brother isn’t gay but he was alone outside of a gay club and the men who attacked him made it clear why they picked him.

Martinez said, “They were yelling gay slurs and yelling their gang name or where they’re from.”

Martinez also told us this isn’t the first time she’s heard of that same group of men harassing people in the area.

She hopes someone comes forward with information about who these guys are. “I want these guys to be caught. Because this was a brutal and heartless crime.”

Baranyay told Instant Tea there had been no arrests in the case as of this afternoon. He also said he doesn’t believe anti-gay violence is a problem in El Paso.

“We’re a very tolerant community,” he said. “People pretty much leave each other alone in this town.”

 

—  John Wright

Pastor Linda Harris in critical condition

Pastor Linda Harris

Local artist Robb Conover contacted me this morning to let me know that Pastor Linda Harris, former pastor of Sanctuary of Love church, is in critical condition at a Fort Worth hospital, and is not expected to live much longer.

Conover said friends of Pastor Harris who would like a chance to see her again and say goodbye are urged to do so as soon as possible. He said she is being giving morphine to control her pain, but is awake and alert at times.

When Conover called this morning, he said Pastor Harris was in Room 321 at Fort Worth Medical Plaza where doctors were working to remove her pacemaker and defibrillator. Once that is accomplished, he said, Pastor Harris will be transferred to hospice care on the seventh floor of Baylor All Saints hospital in Fort Worth.

Conover said the family asked him to let Pastor Harris’ friends know of these latest developments, and said that anyone with questions can contact him at 214-623-7790.

—  admin