Officials: Oak Lawn man likely electrocuted after crossing crime scene tape near power line

Dallas Fire-Rescue officials investigate an apparent elecrocution on Lahoma Street in Oak Lawn this morning. The man’s body was found on the opposite side of the fence from where the investigators are standing. Part of the power line that is believed to have killed the man can be seen dangling from the tree above. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

A unidentified man found dead in Oak Lawn this morning likely crossed crime-scene tape surrounding a downed power line and was electrocuted, according to Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans.

Evans said Fire Rescue crews responded to a report of a downed power line at the Sycamore Tree Apartments, at 5051 Lahoma St., at 10:08 p.m. Tuesday. They cordoned off the area around the power line and waited for crews from Oncor to arrive.

While the area was cordoned off, a resident of the apartment complex wondered into it and was apparently electrocuted, Evans said. The victim’s roommate told authorities they had been out drinking at a bar. The roommate had gone to bed when the victim, whose identity has not been confirmed, went outside. He wasn’t found until shortly before 7 this morning by someone from the apartment complex’s management.

“Based on statements that we’ve gathered from one lady that claimed she heard a scream, and the alleged roommate who claims that they came home after drinking … that puts him inside the perimeter after we had already established it,” Evans told Instant Tea. “We pretty much sat on the lines all night, outside the apartment gate. Apparently sometime between then and this morning that person walked through the perimeter and ended up like he was this morning.”

The victim was found just inside a wrought-iron fence surrounding the 96-unit complex, in a backyard area between an apartment unit and a wall that runs along the pool. A neighbor said most of the people who live in the area are gay. The victim is believed to be a member of the LGBT community, and Instant Tea is working to confirm his identity.

Evans said the Medical Examiner’s Office, which removed the man’s body this morning, will determine an official cause of death.

The tree that took out the power line was felled by a strong thunderstorm that moved through the area on Tuesday night. The storm cut a swath across north Oak Lawn from Love Field to Highland Park.

More photos and a video report from Fox 4 below.

UPDATE: The victim has been identified as 35-year-old Robert Ragan, and the Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed that Ragan died from accidental electrocution.

Ragan was gay and has been active in the local bear and leather communities, as well as the United Court system, according to reports. He had also worked as a gay porn actor/model who went by the name Robert Elephante.

According to his Facebook profile, Ragan graduated from Mesquite High School in 1994 and the University of Texas at Dallas in 2006, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

A man listed as Ragan’s boyfriend on Facebook couldn’t immediately be reached.

The man’s body was found in the area where this tree limb fell.

—  John Wright

Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman says there’s no evidence Oak Lawn arsons were hate crime

A ball of fire engulfs a Jeep behind an apartment complex at 3901 Hall St. in Oak Lawn early Wednesday. (Shane Brown/Special to Dallas Voice)

A Dallas-Fire Rescue spokesman said today that investigators have no reason to believe a string of arsons in the heart of Oak Lawn early Wednesday was motivated by anti-gay bias.

D-FR spokesman Jason Evans said the three fires, which were intentionally set near Reagan and Hall Streets at about 2 a.m. Wednesday, remain under investigation.

The first blaze destroyed a Jeep that was parked outside an apartment complex at 3901 N. Hall St. The second blaze damaged a detached garage behind the Landmark Salon at 3829 N. Hall St.  The suspect unsuccessfully attempted to start a third fire by sticking a burning item through the front door of the apartment complex.

Evans said investigators have a suspect description but are not releasing it to the public.

“They’re still in their process of interviewing potential witnesses and determining whether or not their testimony is going to be useful in their investigation,” Evans said this afternoon. “As far as I know, there haven’t been any additional fires in that area.”

Anyone with information about the fires should call CrimeStoppers at 877-373-8477.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Arsonist strikes the gayborhood

This Jeep was destroyed in the parking lot of the apartment complex at 3901 N. Hall St. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Authorities are looking for a suspect who they believe intentionally set two fires — and attempted to set a third — near the Cedar Springs strip early Wednesday.

The fires broke out around 2 a.m. at 3901 N. Hall St. and 3829 N. Hall St., on either side of Reagan Street less than a block from Cedar Springs. The first fire destroyed a Jeep that was parked in the lot of the apartment complex at 3901 N. Hall St. The suspect also tried to set fire to the apartment complex itself – by sticking a burning item through the front door — but someone extinguished it, according to reports.

Across Reagan Street, a blaze that broke out moments later destroyed the contents of a detached garage and apartment behind a residence at 3829 N. Hall St. No one was living in the second-floor apartment.

A second fire destroyed the contents of a detached garage across Reagan Street at 3829 N. Hall St. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

“They [investigators] do believe that the same person caused all three of these fires,” Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans told Instant Tea today. “They interviewed several witnesses including the owner of the Jeep and his girlfriend and several other witnesses. They have a [suspect] description from credible witnesses that they’re going off of now.”

Evans said investigators aren’t releasing the suspect description or additional information about the blazes. However, he said they don’t believe the fires were set by the driver of a yellow Volkswagen Bug, as suggested earlier by one witness.

Shane Brown, who lives in the apartment complex at 3901 Hall and was awakened by the blazes, said he thinks the incidents may have been a hate crime.

“Most people, even if they’re from out of town, know what area this is,” Brown said. “Something in my gut tells me it was definitely hate-crime orientated, so hopefully they catch them.”

Omar Semper said he owns the house at 3829 N. Hall St. and has lived there with his partner for the last 13 years. He said they used the garage — as well as the upstairs apartment — for storage.

“Everything’s destroyed,” Semper said. “Everything.”

Anyone with information about the fires is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 877-373-8477. For more photos from the fires, see our previous post.

—  John Wright

LA Fitness reportedly fires employee who was accused of calling customer a 'faggot'

An employee at LA Fitness on Mockingbird Lane who was accused of calling a customer a “faggot” has been fired, according to another employee at the gym who spoke to Dallas Voice on condition of anonymity.

Representatives at LA Fitness’ corporate office in California have failed to respond to numerous phone calls seeking comment since the incident was first reported to the newspaper 11 days ago.

Gay LA Fitness customer Jason Evans, 36, alleges that on Sunday, Nov. 8, employee Mark Ramirez twice said to him, “Have a good workout, faggot.” Read Evans’ full account of the incident by going here.

The LA Fitness employee who spoke to Dallas Voice anonymously said Ramirez was fired earlier this week after a thorough investigation. The employee said the company took Evans’ allegation very seriously but also didn’t want to make any rash judgments.

While the case amounted to Evans’ word against Ramirez’s, the investigation determined that even if Ramirez didn’t use the word “faggot,” he treated Evans inappropriately, according to the employee.

The employee said while numerous customers at the heavily gay gym have inquired about the incident, only two have actually cancelled their memberships.

Evans couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

—  John Wright

Gay man says employee at LA Fitness on Mockingbird twice called him a 'faggot'

A gay man says an employee at the newly opened LA Fitness in The Shops at Mockingbird near Love Field twice called him a “faggot” on Sunday.

The man, 36-year-old Jason Evans, said he’s notified the gym’s management and plans to file a complaint with the city of Dallas, which has an ordinance prohibiting anti-gay discrimination in public accommodations.

An employee who answered the phone Monday at LA Fitness, 4540 W. Mockingbird Lane, said no one at the gym could comment on the incident.

“We’re actually not allowed to discuss it,” said the employee, who identified himself as an assistant manager. “If you’d like any kind of statement, you’d have to contact the corporate office.”

Asked whether he was aware of the incident, the assistant manager said, “Yes sir, and it’s being addressed. … All I can do is tell you to contact the corporate office.”

Calls to LA Fitness’ corporate office were placed on hold Monday. To read Evans’ account of the incident, jump with me.

—  John Wright