Gay man attacked in SoHiP neighborhood of Oak Lawn

TakeBackOakLawnAt 2 a.m. this morning (May 26), a man was attacked at the corner of Bowser and Prescott in the neighborhood south of Highland Park. This was a different type of attack that previous ones reported and a different Oak Lawn neighborhood.

According to Fox News, someone jumped out of a red SUV, punched the victim in the eye, then jumped back in the car and sped off.

Here’s the information police released:

Assault at 5000 Bowser Avenue

On May 26, 2016 at about 2 a.m., the victim was walking home from a bar in the 5000 block of Bowser Avenue when an unidentified suspect exited a red or maroon SUV and assaulted him causing injury to his eye and ankle. Throughout the attack the suspect did not say anything, nor did he attempt to take the victim’s property. The suspect then re-entered the SUV and drove away.

The individual that suffered this attack so far has been unable to provide any additional information. It is early in the investigation and the detective will be canvassing the area for video and potential witnesses.  Anyone with information regarding this offense is encouraged to contact Detective McKnight-Bell at (214) 671-3600.

—  David Taffet

Weddington files lawsuit against XTC Cabaret

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Cory Weddington after attack in XTC Cabaret

Attorney Kasey Krummel filed a lawsuit on behalf of Cory Weddington against XTC Cabaret on Sunday, May 1 for damages stemming from an incident that occurred at the club on April 2 in which Weddington alleges he was assaulted by XTC employees.

Weddington is asking for at least $200,000 in compensation for  damages of any kind, penalties, costs, expenses, pre-judgment interest and attorney fees.

The suit alleges that an employee of the club shoved Weddington twice, the second time pushing him to the ground, after which four employees “delivered repeated blows to plaintiff’s head, neck, back, face, shoulder and hips, causing Cory severe and irreparable injuries including a fractured jaw, broken nose, abrasions, and a seizure disorder caused by trauma to the back of the head.”

The lawsuit also charges that employees then refused to call for emergency help, and that “Defendant’s employees and agents made public statements on social media that Cory is a criminal and deserved to be attacked.”

Weddington alleges in suit that the attack was bias-motivated because employees called him a “queer” and told two women who were with him at the club to “get that faggot out of here.”

In addition to discrimination and assault, Weddington is suing for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Weddington has no criminal convictions but does have a case, which is not settled, pending from an incident four years ago.

The suit is filed against the club because, “XTC had actual knowledge of the hostile condition on the premises that was riddled with complaints of violence and aggravated assaults.” It alleges negligent hiring and supervision that included “actual knowledge of convictions, pending investigations, charges, warrants, and even simply histories of violence among its employees, and intentionally failed to address the matter.” The suit also claims that emergency assistance is routinely called to the location and incident reports are filed.

The defendants have been given 50 days to respond to questions of discovery and the suit asks for a jury trial. Criminal assault charges have not been filed against any XTC employees yet.

The case has been assigned to Judge Tonya Parker.

—  David Taffet

Man attacked near ilume over the weekend classified as hate crime

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Craig Knapp, a resident of ilume on Cedar Springs Road, was attacked between 4:10 and 4:15 a.m. on Saturday morning (April 30) as he was walking his neighbor’s dog.

Knapp told WFAA Channel 8 that the two men who attacked him on Douglas Avenue near his building used anti-gay slurs. One of the attackers hit him in the face, and he said even though he offered him his wallet and his phone to keep them from hurting him, they took nothing.

Knapp also told WFAA this is the second time he was attacked. We have not spoken to the victim yet and haven’t found another recent police report on an earlier attack.

Detectives canvassed the area after the attack was reported, and have asked businesses in the area if their cameras caught footage of the attack or attackers.

From the Dallas Police blog, here is a fuller description of the attack and of the suspects:

On April 30, 2016, at about 4:30 a.m., a male victim was walking his dog in the area around the 3000 block of Douglas Avenue. The victim was approached by two suspects, a Black male 6’1” with a gold tooth wearing “skinny jeans” and a Latin male of unknown description. The Black male suspect asked the victim what the dog’s name was and when the victim answered, the Black male suspect made a derogatory comment about the victim’s perceived sexual orientation and shoved the victim to the ground causing scrapes to the victim’s face.

Both suspects then fled the location in an unknown direction. The comments made by the suspect indicate this was a crime of bias and will be classified as such. The assault itself is a Class A Misdemeanor and this is the third bias crime reported in the Oak Lawn area since September 2015.

Detectives from the Assaults Unit followed up with the victim over the weekend and canvassed the immediate area looking for video and witnesses to the offense.

Anyone with information regarding this offense or these suspects is asked to contact the Dallas Police Department’s Assaults Unit at 214-671-3584. Callers who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 214-373-TIPS (8477).

—  David Taffet

DA Hawk schedules another Oak Lawn Town Hall

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Dallas County DA Susan Hawk

Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk will hold a second Oak Lawn Town Hall meeting on Monday, April 25, 6 p.m. at the Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. Hawk held the first town hall in mid-December to address the rash of attacks happening in the gayborhood and to hear residents’ concerns and questions.

In a press statement released today (Monday, Aug. 18), the D.A. said she is holding the April 25 meeting because, “I wanted to meet with Oak Lawn area community members, again, to follow up with them regarding the safety concerns they presented at our December Town Hall meeting, Our office wants to remain a consistent resource for our community, and to do that we can’t just show up once. We have to keep the lines of communication open and continue to have a presence.”

Hawk said she will update the community on office initiatives and on programs and resources in place to help the LGBT community and Dallas County in general. She will also address ongoing concerns about the attacks last fall. No arrests have been made yet in any of those assaults.

Hawk said at that December meeting that she lived in the Oak Lawn area and had often walked her dog near the location of one of the attacks. Because of that, she added, the attacks in the area “are personal.”

—  Tammye Nash

Equality Texas premieres hate crime video at Dallas Police HQ

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Michael Dominguez, from left, Burke Burnett, Councilman Adam Medrano, D.A. Susan Hawk, Sheriff Lupe Valdez, Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith and Equality Texas board chair Steve Rudner at Dallas Police Headquarters to introduce a new hate crime video.

Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith introduced a new video in a press conference at Dallas Police headquarters this morning (Monday, April 11) to mark the beginning of National Crime Victims Rights week. The five-minute video focuses on last fall’s rash of attacks on gay men in Oak Lawn.

Survivor Michael Dominguez and Burke Burnett, who was attacked in a hate crime in Paris, Texas in 2011, are featured in the video and were on hand to talk about the group SOS created to help area crime victims.

Smith said the first murder of a trans person in the U.S. this year took place in Austin. Another was killed this weekend in Houston. He pointed to campaign rhetoric and discussions going on in state legislatures related to anti-LGBT discrimination laws as contributing to the violence.

Referring to the video, Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano said, “They haven’t caught anybody. That bothers me.” But he pointed out positive steps that have been taken including the creation of SOS, the increase of people participating in Volunteers on Patrol in Oak Lawn from 5 to 25.

“We work best when we work together,” Sheriff Lupe Valdez said. “No one deserves to be a victim. A beating, abuse is never acceptable.”

“The DA’s office will not accept violence against any group whatsoever,” District Attorney Susan Hawk said. “If we believe we can prove a hate crime, we will prosecute.”

Michael Dominguez said he’s seen the community work with police over the last six months and said the city functions better when groups work together. Dominguez has been the most vocal of SOS members.

“I refuse to let this happen in the city where I chose to live,” Dominguez said. “No one should live in fear.”

Maj. Max Geron of the DPD credited an increase in patrols with a decrease in the violence. He said the unreported attacks are concerning.

“Give us an opportunity to hear what you have to say and investigate the crime,” he said.

OAK LAWN HATE CRIMES (with bug, lower 3rd supers) from RED MEDIA GROUP on Vimeo.

—  David Taffet

XTC Cabaret spokesman responds to allegations in Weddington case

XTCThis morning, Dallas Voice received the following statement via email from attorneys for RCI Management Services that runs XTC Cabaret. The statement is in response to a story run earlier this week about a fight that took place at the club:

Based on the story you authored on April 5, I wanted to make sure you received the following statement from a representative of our client, XTC Cabaret (Dallas), relating to the Cory Weddington incident:

We are aware of an altercation that occurred in the early morning hours of April 1, 2016 at XTC Dallas.  As a member of the LGBT community myself, I can assure you that we are taking this matter very seriously and are fully investigating the circumstances.  It is our understanding that the Dallas Police Department is also conducting an independent criminal investigation into Mr. Weddington’s alleged assault of one of our employees that precipitated the events of that morning.  We continue to cooperate with DPD and are awaiting the results of their investigation.  Until the investigation into this matter is fully concluded, it would be inappropriate to comment further.

Scott J. Sherman
General Counsel
RCI MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC.

—  David Taffet

No jail or fine for Sheridan in graffiti case

sheridanRich Sheridan formally pleaded no contest to charges he spray painted the Legacy of Love monument with “666” and painted graffiti at Cathedral of Hope.
Because of his targets — a public monument and a church — the charges carry a penalty for two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Under the plea agreement, Sheridan will spend no time in jail and won’t pay a fine. Instead, he received deferred community supervision for two years in each of the two cases, served simultaneously. If he violates terms of his probation, he’ll have to pay $2,000 in fines.

“If Rich Sheridan violates the terms of his community supervision he can also be sentenced to confinement,” Assistant District Attorney Craig NeNeil said.

Oak Lawn Committee, which maintains the monument and the triangle where it sits at the corner of Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road spent several thousand dollars cleaning and restoring it.

The Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas of Cathedral of Hope said damage to church property wasn’t expensive to clean.

“We believe in second chances,” Cazares-Thomas said. “If he breaks that second chance, he will have to pay recompense.”

He said for a crime like this, community service would be an appropriate punishment.

In addition to the two charges filed, Sheridan tagged property in front of the Dallas Morning News, D Magazine and Dallas Observer offices. He also painted over Dallas Voice distribution boxes and marked graffiti in the Dallas City Hall underground parking lot. Charges were not filed in those cases.

The district attorney’s office couldn’t comment on the case until formal sentencing on April 15.

Updated with information from Asst. D.A. Craig McNeil on Feb. 29.

—  David Taffet

Richard Sheridan given probation and provide restitution in graffiti cases

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2014 graffiti at Legacy of Love monument

Former Dallas City Council candidate Richard Sheridan has been given felony deferred adjudication probation in 2014 graffiti cases that targeted the LGBT community.

Sheridan entered the first half of his plea to graffiti charges on Thursday, Feb. 11. His case was reset for a pre-sentence investigation and evaluation. A restitution hearing will be held on April 15 to determine the amount of restitution to be paid as a condition of probation.

Sheridan was arrested in March 2015 for spray painting “666” on the Legacy of Love monument on the corner of Cedar Springs Road and Oak Lawn Avenue in June 2014. He also was accused of tagging Cathedral of Hope property and sidewalks in front of The Dallas Morning News, D Magazine and The Observer. Dallas Voice distribution boxes were defaced as well. Tagging attributed to Sheridan was later found in Dallas City Hall’s parking garage as well.

According to Assistant Criminal District Attorney Gary McDonald, Sheridan is being placed on felony deferred adjudication probation for a period of two years in each case, as charged.

“This means his plea is to ‘Graffiti of a Monument/Church with the Hate Crime allegation,’ a third degree felony,” McDonald wrote. “He will be fined $1,000.00 in each case, but the fine will be probated because he is indigent.”

Sheridan will be prohibited from contacting either location as a condition of community supervision. As part of the pre-sentence investigation, he will be referred for a mental health/dual diagnosis evaluation to determine appropriate conditions of community supervision in each case.

The amount of restitution to Cathedral of Hope has not yet been determined. The church cleaned the graffiti at its own expense. The Oak Lawn Committee cleaned the monument. Defacing a public monument or a church carries higher penalties than other targets. Hate crime charges can be attached to those as well since they specifically targeted the LGBT community.

—  David Taffet

Convicted gay-bashing killer Jon Buice released on parole

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Jon Buice

File this under “Things That Slipped By Us”:

Jon Buice, who pleaded guilty in 1992 to murdering a Houston gay man, was released from prison on Dec. 30 after serving 23 years of his 45-year sentence.

Buice was 17 on July 4, 1991, when he and nine other youths from The Woodlands, a suburb north of Houston, drove to the Montrose area, Houston’s gayborhood, where they attacked three gay men leaving a nightclub. Two of the men managed to get away from the gang of young men wielding knives, pipes and nail-studded boards.

But Paul Broussard, a 27-year-old banker, was beaten to death. His death sparked outrage in the LGBT community statewide, and publicity surrounding the brutal murder helped prod the Texas Legislature to pass a law that mirrored the federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act. That law called for local and state law enforcement agencies to collect data on hate crimes, and was Texas’ first step toward a comprehensive hate crimes law.

ABC 13 Eyewitness News in Houston, in reporting on Buice’s parole, talked to Ray Hill, the Houston activist who led efforts to make sure Broussard’s murder was investigated as a hate crime and led marches and protests, pressing prosecutors for stiffer punishments. Hill later changed his mind, deciding that it wasn’t a hate crime, but just a case of drunken teens getting in a fight. He has since led the push to get Buice released on parole.

“I was the second person [Buice] hugged when he walked out of the door today,” Hill told ABC 13 the day Buice was released. “He hugged his father then he grabbed on me and was a little longer holding on to me.”

Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, had fought diligently over the last 23 years to keep Buice in prison. In August 2011, the parole board reversed an earlier decision to release Buice on parole then after they were given “new information.” Rodriguez, who had traveled to Texas from her home in Georgia each time Buice was up for parole, said in 2011 that Buice had never shown remorse for killing her son, and that she did not feel like he had changed. “I am concerned [Buice] will go out and do something else to someone else,” she said at the time.

Under the terms of his parole, Buice will have to wear ankle monitor, avoid contact with the victim’s family and get permission from his parole officer if he ever wants to return to Harris County.

—  Tammye Nash

‘Hate’ crimes or not, recent attacks are bias crimes

Tammye NashOf the 12 — or more — attacks on gay men in Oak Lawn since the first of September, only one has been classified as a possible hate crime. That’s because that is the only one of the robberies/assaults in which the victim was able to say definitively that the men who robbed and beat him used anti-gay slurs while they were robbing and beating him.

These other attacks, according to the way the hate crimes law works, can’t be investigated or classified as hate crimes — at least not at this time — because no one can say there was anti-gay language used. And since the victims were robbed — or at least, their assailants tried to rob them — police can’t say that anti-gay sentiment played any role in the motives for the crimes.

But guess what: That doesn’t mean it doesn’t either. Perhaps the “primary” motive was just robbery. But I would be willing to bet that some form of homophobia or anti-gay hatred played a part in whom these assailants chose to rob.

And no, I am not just saying that to try to sensationalize the sensation and “create headlines” for Dallas Voice. I am saying that based on what two men who have been convicted and executed for crimes against gay men told me.

Who remembers Nicholas West? You know, the young gay man who, in November 1993, was kidnapped from Tyler’s Bergfeld Park and taken to a gravel pit near Noonday, where he was beaten and then shot to death. A man named Donald Aldrich was arrested less than a month later, and in his confession, he bragged about killing West because West was gay and Aldrich hated gay people.

Two years later, in July 1995, I drove down to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Ellis Unit, just outside of Huntsville, to talk to Aldrich face to face. He had agreed to the interview because he wanted to tell me — so I could tell the LGBT community — that he didn’t really hate gay people and that he was, in fact, at least bisexual himself.

He told me he only told Smith County officers that he hated gays, because he figured they hated gays, too, and might give him a break. Then a few weeks after the interview, Aldrich mailed me a piece of cross-stitch he had done. It was a pink triangle on a background with all the rainbow colors. I kept it thumb-tacked to the wall of my cubicle at the Dallas Voice offices on Carlisle for years.

But he told me something else that was — and is — very, very important: It didn’t matter whether he or Henry Dunne or David McMillan — his two co-defendants — actually hated gay men. They targeted gay men because they believed gay men were easy targets.

This is from the article I wrote for Dallas Voice following my interview with Aldrich:

“Aldrich does not deny that he was involved in the events that led up to West’s murder. And he does not deny that he was involved in a string of robberies and carjackings in the month or so before West’s death.

“What he does deny is that the crimes were committed, at least on his part, out of any sort of hatred for gays. The gay men were targeted, he said, because “Homosexuals make themselves easy targets. They don’t report these crimes, because they don’t want anyone to know they’re gay.

“Think about it,” he added. “You want to make some easy money, and you’re going to do it illegally. Are you going to rob a gas station where the whole thing will end up on videotape and you might get $40 or $50? Or are you going to go across the street to the park where the homosexuals hang out and rob them, where you know there won’t be any videotape and [the victim] won’t report it?

“Hey, you go where the money is, and that’s one reason why I got in this in the first place, to make some fast, easy cash.”

Aldrich, who was executed by lethal injection on Oct. 12, 2004, for his role in West’s murder, made it clear: Maybe he and his cohorts in crime didn’t actually hate gay people, but they definitely and deliberately targeted gay people.

(Dunne was executed in 2003, and McMillan was sentenced to life in prison, by the way.)

Want another example? I have one.

On May 18, 1997, Aaron Foust and Jamal Brown murdered David Ward, a gay man who worked as an administrator at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Foust was convicted and sentenced to death. But before he was shipped off to the Ellis Unit in Huntsville to await his execution — which happened on April 28, 1999, after Foust refused any appeals — Foust agreed to sit down and talk to me.

I met him in a small room at the Tarrant County Jail, and we sat across a folding table from each other as we talked, with a guard sitting just outside the door. Foust told me that day that he and Brown went after Ward because Ward’s ex-boyfriend owed Foust money for drugs. But Foust killed Ward because he was gay.

“If he had been a straight, married man, with a wife and kids, I’d have let him live,” Foust said of Ward. “Or if he’d been single [and heterosexual], I probably wouldn’t have killed him. I would have kicked his ass, but I probably wouldn’t have killed him.”

When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter if these criminals are coming to Oak Lawn to beat and rob people because they hate gays or because they just think gays are easy targets; it doesn’t matter if the robberies are the main point of the attacks and the beatings are just after-thoughts because the victims are gay.

What matters is that gay people in the gayborhood are being targeted for whatever reason. And as far as I am concerned, that makes these crimes of bias based on the sexual orientation of the victims.

—  Tammye Nash