Top 10: Reno attack made national news

DSC00135

BEATEN AND BURNED | Burke Burnett was stabbed with a broken beer bottle and thrown onto a lit burn barrel at a Halloween party in East Texas. (Courtesy of Burke Burnett)

No. 9

Burke Burnett says he was inspired to come out as gay at 15 after learning about the hate crime murder of gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard. Thirteen years after Shepard’s death, Burnett himself became the victim of a brutal anti-gay hate crime in Reno, Texas, a small town east of Paris and 100 miles northeast of Dallas.

Burnett, now 26, was at a Halloween party in the early morning hours of Oct. 30 when he was jumped by three men who yelled anti-gay epithets as they stabbed him repeatedly with a broken beer bottle, before throwing him onto a lit burn barrel.

Burnett said he’d never before had problems in his hometown due to his sexual orientation, but he believes the men were trying to kill him.

It took 30 stitches to close stab wounds to his back and forearm, as well as a cut above his left eye. He also sustained second-degree burns and severe bruises.

It was arguably the worst anti-gay hate crime Texas has seen since Jimmy Lee Dean was beaten nearly to death in the heart of Dallas’ gay entertainment district in 2008. And for many in East Texas, Burnett’s beating undoubtedly evoked memories of the 1993 murder of Nicholas West in Tyler.

Fearing that local authorities wouldn’t treat the crime seriously, Burnett’s friends contacted the media. After graphic photos of his injuries were posted on DallasVoice.com, the incident quickly made national news.

Reno police were tightlipped about their investigation, but within days they’d arrested three men in connection with the crime — 31-year-old James Mitchell Lasater III of Paris, 25-year-old Micky Joe Smith of Brookston and 33-year-old Daniel Shawn Martin of Paris.

The suspects each were charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault, but under Texas law, it would be up to prosecutors to decide whether to treat the case as a hate crime.

And LGBT advocates weren’t terribly optimistic, given that in the 10 years since Texas’ statute was passed, only about a dozen cases have been prosecuted as hate crimes.

They would be pleasantly surprised, however, when on Nov. 10 the Lamar County District Attorney’s Office announced that that all three suspects would face hate crimes enhancements.

Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but the enhancements would bump up the charges, making them first-degree felonies punishable by life in prison.

— John Wright

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The hate continues: 3 teens arrested for assaulting gay classmate

This week, we here in the LGBT community in DFW are celebrating the courage of two members of our community: Trans teen Andy Moreno who chose to stand and fight when her high school principal told her she couldn’t run for homecoming queen, and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, whose impassioned and powerful speech on teen suicide and his own struggle as a teen is reaching people around the world.

But elsewhere, the same hatred and bullying and harassment that played a role in a number of highly-publicized teen suicides over the past month was rearing its ugly head once again.

Nassau County police this week arrested three Long Island teenagers for allegedly assaulting a classmate for being gay — not once, but twice, and both times on a school bus, according to reports at WPix.com.

Police have charged 18-year-old David Spencer of North Valley Stream, 16-year-old Chase Morrison of Lakeview both with second-degree aggravated harrassment and third-degree assault, and they have charged 14-year-old Roy Wilson of Baldwin with third-degree assault.

According to reports, the three assailants attacked their 14-year-old classmate on the bus Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 12, as it left Nassau BOCES Career Preparatory High School in Hicksville, kicking and stomping him while hurling anti-gay epithets at him. The next morning, Wednesday, Oct. 13, when the unnamed victim boarded the bus  to go to school, the three attacked him again, using anti-gay insults as they slapped him in the face and head.

The three were arrested later Wednesday afternoon.

—  admin

WATCH: ‘A Vigil for the Lost’ on Cedar Springs honors victims of anti-gay bullying, harassment

The names of gay suicide victims were read during a brief ceremony at the Legacy of Love Monument.

About 100 people gathered on the Cedar Springs strip Sunday night to pay tribute to the many young victims of anti-gay bullying and harassment who’ve taken their own lives in recent weeks.

Turnout was surprisingly strong given that the vigil had been publicized primarily on Facebook. However, the Dallas Voice appeared to be the only media outlet present.

“A Vigil for the Lost,” organized by the DFW Sisters, began in the parking lot of the Oak Lawn library, where the Sisters passed out programs, glowsticks and ribbons. The Subway store on Cedar Springs donated 200 sandwiches.

One of the Sisters was wearing a “Veil of Tears” that was laid over the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot. People were encouraged to use Sharpies to record on the veil anti-gay epithets that have been used against them. Attendees scrawled things like “Faggot,” “Fucking Queer” and “God made AIDS to kill faggots.” The Sisters said the Veil of Tears would be burned following the vigil.

From the library, the mourners walked silently down the north side of Cedar Springs Road, taking up more than a full block at times, to the Legacy of Love Monument at Oak Lawn Avenue. Revelers outside bars on the strip asked what the vigil was about as the marchers walked silently past.

At the monument, the names of youth who’ve committed suicide were read, between refrains of “Stop the Bullying” and “Never Again,” during a brief ceremony. Video and more photos from the vigil are below.

—  John Wright

Police investigating anti-gay fliers in Ky.

COVINGTON, Ky. — Police in northern Kentucky are investigating who blanketed a neighborhood in anti-gay fliers two days after the Covington City Commission held a press conference reaffirming the city’s human rights ordinance.

The Kentucky Enquirer reported that fliers were posted on poles and placed on windshields throughout the MainStrasse neighborhood sometime Wednesday night, Aug. 25 or Thursday morning, Aug. 26.

The fliers come in the wake of a series of crimes that police and residents believe have targeted the city’s gay community.

The Covington Police are investigating who is responsible for the fliers, which contained anti-gay epithets and called homosexuality a perversion.

—  John Wright

Attacks on gays decried in northern Ky. city

Associated Press

COVINGTON, Ky. — Police have boosted patrols in a bar district in this northern Kentucky city following attacks that appeared to target gays.

Two people suffered slash wounds and two others had minor injuries in an Aug. 14 knife attack at a gas station in which anti-gay epithets were yelled at the victims, police said.

Police said they will start tracking incidents of ethnic and anti-gay slurs and hate speech, The Kentucky Enquirer reported. Also, a group of residents has formed “Zero Tolerance for Hate Crimes in Covington” and will host an event at six bars in MainStrasse on Saturday, Aug. 28 to raise money for an anti-hate campaign.

“We have had three incidents in the last several months and it has got to stop now,” said Mayor Denny Bowman.

Recent crimes spurred the Covington City Commission and more than 80 people to gather Tuesday, Aug. 24 at city hall to denounce hate crimes and reaffirm support for the human rights ordinance passed in 2003. The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

City Commissioner Shawn Masters said he moved to Covington partly because of its diversity and is proud that the city has a human rights ordinance.

“I’m not proud of the fact we are here because of a certain incident that happened recently, but I think it is a good opportunity to reaffirm where this city stands,” Masters said.

Police Chief Lee Russo said two additional officers recently were assigned to the MainStrasse beat during peak hours. Also, the two patrol officers who roam throughout the city are focusing on MainStrasse, Russo said.

The police also want people to report slurs and hate speech to police so it can be tracked, Russo said.

—  John Wright