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

Dallas police issue statement on safety, alleged increase in gang activity at NorthPark Center

The Dallas Police Department issued the following statement today in response to an unsubstantiated, viral e-mail claiming a huge increase in gang activity at NorthPark Center:

Safety at North Park Mall

There have been multiple inquiries in the last twenty-four hours from the media regarding safety at North Park Mall. These inquiries were apparently spurred by an e-mail from a mall patron who noted an increase in young people at the mall and increased police presence as well as from an informal conversation about the situation with off-duty officers there. Please know the following:

North Park officials report an increase in the number of young people at the mall, particularly around the movie theaters. The report we have from patrol and gang unit officers is that there is no discernable organized gang presence there. The Dallas Police Department’s gang unit did go to the mall during the week of the Super Bowl as a routine measure. They made one arrest. They then did a follow-up but found no compelling reason to continue monitoring the mall on a regular basis.

Reported crime at the mall is actually down since the first of the year as compared to the same time last year. There have been 14 reported Part 1 crimes (not counting shoplift cases) compared to 21 last year. And the overwhelming majority of the offenses both years involve thefts of or from vehicles in the parking lot. There have been two robberies and one aggravated assault reported in the mall so far this year. While those certainly are a concern, they closely parallel the number and kinds of crime seen in previous years and by no means suggest an up-tick in offenses at the mall.

In late January additional off-duty Dallas officers were hired by the mall in anticipation of an influx of visitors coming to Dallas for the Super Bowl. The mall decided to keep hiring additional officers, particularly on weekend evenings, as a precautionary measure.

It is always a best practice to be vigilant of your surroundings whether it is walking in your neighborhood or shopping at your favorite locations. North Park security and the Dallas Police Department will continue to work to keep the mall a secure and vibrant shopping area where the public can go with confidence of being safe.

—  John Wright