In the second report of a violent anti-gay hate crime in Texas over the Halloween weekend, a lesbian college student says she was beaten by two men who kidnapped her at a party in San Antonio. Kristen Cooper, who attends the University of Texas at San Antonio, told KENS Channel 5 she was waiting for a ride outside an apartment complex in the northwest part of the city when the men punched her and drug her into their truck, before driving off and continuing to beat her.
The suspects eventually let Cooper go, but she was without a phone so she walked down the roadway until someone spotted her and called 911. Cooper said the only thing the suspects knew about her was that she’s gay, and they yelled anti-gay slurs during the attack. She suffered a concussion and whiplash, and her face is badly bruised and swollen.
Police are investigating the incident as an assault but said they can’t confirm it was a hate crime.
Best we can tell, The CW 33 on Wednesday night became the first TV station to air a report on the case of Burke Burnett, the 26-year-old from Paris who says he was the victim of a brutal anti-gay hate crime last weekend at a party in Reno, Texas. Burnett tells The CW’s Charles Bassett that he was inspired to come out as gay at 15 following the murder of Matthew Shepard. “It really, really scared me as a little boy to think that that’s what happens to gay people,” Burnett says. Bassett’s report notes that Reno police are being tight-lipped about their investigation but now have three suspects in custody charged with aggravated assault. “I haven’t prayed enough about that yet to know exactly what I want done to these people,” Burnett says, “but it’s not my job to decide what justice for these guys is.” Watch the video below, and look for a full story in Friday’s Dallas Voice.
Micky Joe Smith, 25, is expected to face the same charges as the other two suspects — aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. The charges are second-degree felonies, punishable by up 20 years in prison, and not first-degree felonies as previously reported.
Daniel Martin, 33, and James “Tray” Mitchell Laster III, 31, were arrested late Tuesday in the beating of 26-year-old Burke Burnett. Burnett was stabbed at least twice with a broken beer bottle and thrown onto a fire at a private party early Sunday, by up to four men who yelled gay slurs during the attack.
Martin and Laster are each being held on $250,000 bond, according to the Lamar County Sheriff’s Department. No bond amount had been set for Smith, who was taken into custody today.
Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young, whose office is handling the cases, said it will be up to a grand jury to decide whether they are prosecuted as hate crimes. Under Texas law, a hate crime enhancement could result in the charges being bumped up from second-degree felonies to first-degree felonies — punishable by five to 99 years in prison.
“We’re in the process of receiving all the information as a result of the investigation,” Young said. “We will present all that information to the grand jury, including all the information as to whether it’s a hate crime or not. The grand jury will make a determination whether it [a hate crime] is or isn’t part of the charge. If their actions of committing the aggravated assault are based on race or sexual orientation or whatever it may be, the grand jury can choose to enhance the offense up a level.”
Young declined to further discuss the cases.
Burnett couldn’t immediately be reached, but his friend Chivas Clem said they were relieved at the arrests. Clem previously said he felt authorities may try to brush the crime under the rug.
“The fact that they’re taking it seriously is important and shows good faith on their part that they’re treating gays and lesbians as a legitimate minority,” Clem said.
James Mitchell Laster, left, and Daniel Martin (Lamar County Sheriff's Department)
Two men have been arrested in connection with the brutal assault of a gay man early Sunday in Reno, Texas — which the victim and his friends say was a hate crime.
Reno Police Chief Jeff W. Sugg announced in a two-sentence statement this morning that Daniel Martin, 33, and James “Tray” Mitchell Laster III, 31, have been arrested in the beating of 26-year-old Burke Burnett.
Burnett said he was stabbed at least twice with a broken beer bottle and thrown onto a fire at a private party early Sunday, by up to four men who yelled gay slurs during the attack. Burnett needed more than 30 stitches to close stab wounds to his back and forearm, as well as a cut above his left eye from being sucker-punched at the start of the attack. He also suffered second-degree burns from being thrown onto a lit burn barrel.
Martin and Laster were arrested late Tuesday. Each is charged with one count of aggravated assault with a a deadly weapon, and one count of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury — second-degree felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison. According to Sugg’s statement, the investigation is ongoing.
Reno police spokeswoman Alicia Myrick said it will be up the Lamar County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether the case is prosecuted as a hate crime.
Burke Burnett says he was punched in the eye, stabbed with a broken beer bottle and thrown onto a lit burn barrel early Sunday at a party in Reno, Texas. View more photos of Burnett's injuries below.
UPDATE: Three suspects have been arrested in connection with this crime. Read more here.
A 26-year-old gay man says he was the victim of a brutal hate crime early Sunday in Reno, Texas — a small town just east of Paris and about 100 miles northeast of Dallas.
Burke Burnett said he was at a private party at about 1 a.m. when four men suddenly attacked him, stabbing him at least twice with a broken beer bottle before throwing him onto a fire. His attackers yelled things like “pussy-ass faggot,” “gay bitch” and “cock-sucking punk,” Burnett said.
Burnett said 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.
“They knew I was gay,” Burnett said Monday. “I’m convinced they were trying to kill me.”
Jeff Sugg, interim chief of the Reno Police Department, released a statement Monday afternoon saying: “The Reno Police Department is currently investigating an aggravated assault that took place last weekend. The investigation is ongoing and additional information will be provided when available.”
Reno police officials declined to further discuss their investigation.
Burnett said the officer investigating the case told him the attack will be classified as a hate crime. But Burnett said his attackers, whose identities are known, remain at large, and the officer told him it could be two weeks before they’re arrested.
“I’m scared for my life,” Burnett said, adding that he’s staying with a family friend. “I’m scared to go home. These guys have nothing to lose.”
U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means this week sentenced Henry Clay Glaspell, 34, of Arlington, to 14 months in prison after Gaspell pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge in connection with an arson fire at the children’s playground at the Dar El-Eman Islamic Education Center in Arlington in July 2010, according to this reportfrom the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Means ordered Glaspell, who has been free on bond, to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on Nov. 21.
Glaspell also admitted that he had stolen and damaged some of the mosque’s property, that he had thrown used cat litter at the mosque’s front door and that he had shouted racial and ethnic slurs at people at the mosque on several occasions. Glaspell said his actions were motivated by hatred for people of Arabic or Middle Eastern descent.
UPDATE: The Beaumont Enterprise reports that the execution of white supremacist and convicted hate crime murderer Lawrence Russell Brewer has been carried out. The execution was scheduled for 6 p.m., and Brewer was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m.
Brewer is one of two men sentenced to die after being convicted of the June 7, 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in my hometown of Jasper, Texas. John William King also faces the death penalty, but he continues to appeal his sentence. A third man, Shawn Berry, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Most of you, I am sure, have heard of James Byrd Jr., and how King, Brewer and Berry offered him a ride one night, then beat him up, chained him by his ankles to the bumper of a pickup truck and dragged him down a back road until his body hit a culvert and was torn apart. A pathologist testified that Byrd was alive when he hit the culvert.
King, Brewer and Berry were arrested within a couple of days. The story that came out in the weeks and months afterward was that Brewer and King met in prison where they both joined a white supremacist group, a splinter of the KKK called the Confederate Knights of America. King had lived in Jasper, and when the two men got out of prison, they went back to Jasper, where King and Berry became friends.
Evidence also indicated that the men — at least, King and Brewer — were intent on starting a race war. So they set out to commit as horrific a crime as possible, expecting that to be the spark that set off a blaze of racial hatred. Luckily, that didn’t happen, although not for lack of trying by outsiders on both sides — the KKK and the Black Panthers — who flocked to Jasper during King’s trial there. Brewer’s trial was moved to Bryan.
RIDERLESS CARRIAGE | Ten years after 9/11, the American landscape looks far different — for gay rights as well.
What a difference a decade makes. In September of 2001, days after the loss of lives on 9/11 scarred America, the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade had a first: Instead of a grand marshal riding in the parade, a horse-drawn carriage remained empty, save for a sign reading “Dedicated to the victims lost in the tragedy of Sept. 11.”
Dallas Tavern Guild’s Michael Doughman remembers that moment as clearly as if it were yesterday, but for him, the carriage was a symbol beyond its intentions. Or at least, it became one.
“It was a sobering but very powerful moment when that carriage went by,” he recalls. “I’ve often thought about it and when I reflect that it’s been 10 years, I give thought to the progress that we’ve made as a country.”
That progress transcends into the LGBT community, as hot-button issues like “don’t ask, don’t tell” and same-sex marriages have developed in positive ways since 9/11 — whether directly or not. The empty carriage symbolized not only the loss of that fateful day, but also those lost in other battles.
“I saw that empty carriage and thought all the people that I had lost to AIDS, to cancer,” Doughman says. “I think it also represented a loss and absence in general. It was significant of more loss in other arenas, whether it was illness, or hate crimes or something else.”
Doughman say there are plans for a 9/11 acknowledgement at the beginning of this year’s parade. While details have not been finalized, he doesn’t want what happened then to disappear into history books. As time passes, he says, it serves as much more than just a memory.
“We’re aware that even 10 years later, commemorating helps us to keep vigilant,” he says, “for our rights, for everyone and for this country.”
— Rich Lopez
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.
SALT LAKE CITY — Police say they don’t know yet whether a pair of attacks that seriously injured two gay men were hate crimes, but Utah’s gay community has called for a stop to the violence.
“Anytime there’s an allegation of something like that we consider all aspects of the case,” police Detective Cary Wichmann said. “But until a detective is able to determine it’s a hate crime, there’s no way to say.”
The two attacks occurred Aug. 26 near the downtown nightclub Club Sound, which holds gay-themed events each Friday. Dane Hall, 20, said he heard someone shout gay slurs at him just before he was struck from behind and knocked to the ground.
In the second attack, club owner Tom Taylor said he was leaving the nightclub when a bloodied man who lived nearby asked for help. Taylor said the man was sleeping on a couch in his boyfriend’s apartment when a group of men broke in, beat him and then chased him onto the street.
“They were close in time and location, but there’s not initial indication that (the attacks) were related,” Wichmann said.
Hall said he saw four men over him as he was repeatedly punched in the face. One attacker stomped on his head, he said. “My cheek bone was shattered.”
He lost six teeth and fractured his jaw in three places. Doctors found a chip of his jawbone jammed into his brain, said Hall.
“I never thought this would happen here,” Hall said. “My physical appearance will never be the same.”
The man that Taylor helped was not identified. Taylor said he was looking at security camera footage from the club to see if either attack or the alleged assailant were recorded.
“We can’t let these kinds of things not get taken care of,” Taylor said.
If police determine either attack was motivated by anti-gay sentiments, the police chief would become involved in the investigation because such crimes are taken very seriously, Wichmann said.
Meanwhile, the state’s gay community called for a halt to the violence.
Activist and Utah Pride Center board president Nikki Boyer said it’s hard to understand what motivates a person to beat someone because they are gay.
“We’re gaining acceptance,” Boyer said. “But there’s still so much hate and bigotry. I don’t have an answer. None of us do.”