Gay Dallas man arrested for robbery says he was fleeing hate crime

Justin York’s arm a few days after the incident at Southwest Auto Tow. He said he suffered a concussion and a dislocated jaw.

A Dallas gay man claims he was the victim of a hate crime while trying to retrieve his items from a towing company on Oct. 6.

Justin York said he was moving into an apartment when his car and his friend’s car were towed in the early hours of Saturday, Oct. 6. He said his landlord hadn’t processed their vehicle information yet, so the towing was a misunderstanding.

York and his friend went to Southwest Auto Tow, at 11211 Goodnight Lane, to get items out of their cars around 5 a.m. He said he didn’t want to pay $200 to get his car back since it was towed because of a mistake by his landlord.

York said he turned on his car for heat because of the chilly weather that weekend. A few minutes later, he said he saw two men at the company pick up his friend’s car with a wrecker while the friend was still inside and begin to swing the car from side to side. York said he left his car running and ran toward the men to stop them.

He said they then punched him in the head and his friend ran off. He said one of the men sat on him while the other kicked him repeatedly and yelled anti-gay slurs and comments about gay sex. He fought back to protect himself.

“I may be gay, but I’m still a man no matter how feminine I am, so I fought back,” he said. “I literally started whooping his ass with my purse.”

—  Dallasvoice

DPD investigating sergeant’s comments to lesbian officers about Chick-fil-A

Laura Martin

A Dallas police sergeant has been transferred to the jail after he allegedly made inappropriate comments to two lesbian patrol officers concerning Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day last week.

Sgt. Mark Johnson, a 12-year-veteran, has been assigned to the jail pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation, according to DPD Assistant Chief Michael Genovesi.

The two lesbian officers complained after Johnson placed a Chick-fil-A bag in front of them on Wednesday, Aug. 1, and said something about having eaten at the restaurant, Genovesi said.

Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, organized by anti-gay former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, was designed to show support for Chick-fil-A’s opposition to same-sex marriage. And the lesbian officers said they felt Johnson, their supervisor, was trying to send them a message.

Later during a meeting, Johnson read an announcement sent out by Genovesi concerning how officers were to handle a gay kiss-in planned at Chick-fil-A restaurants last Friday. The kiss-in was organized by members of the LGBT community in response to Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. As Johnson read the announcement, he was looking at the lesbian officers. Feeling intimidated, they left the meeting early.

“I would reiterate that we do take any type of discrimination or harassment issue seriously,” Genovesi told Instant Tea. “I’m optimistic that the investigation will ferret out what happened on this, and we’ll take action if action is called for.”

—  John Wright

Gay Dallas officials address election challenges, shift in attitude toward gay candidates at forum

From left, Dallas police LGBT Liaison Laura Martin, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and former Dallas Councilman John Loza speak about being out officials at a Dallas Pride forum Wednesday, June 20. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

A couple of Dallas’ out officials discussed the challenges and benefits of running as an out candidate and serving as an open officeholder Wednesday at the third event in the city’s “Honor, Educate and Celebrate” Pride series.

Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez, former Councilman John Loza and Dallas police LGBT Liaison Laura Martin, who stepped in last minute for the absent 116th Civil District Court Judge Tonya Parker, were panelists. A group of about 30 sat comfortably in couches in a casual setting at the United Black Ellument Cultural Center and asked questions about campaigns and the importance of out officials.

Valdez touched on the challenges of running as an openly gay candidate. In her first election in 2004, she worried constantly that she would be outed. When her opponent eventually outed her, she said she handled it with care and focused on her experience.

In a story about self-worth, Valdez explained that she received international calls when she first won. When a Collin County woman sitting next to her on a plane recognized her, she began to tell Valdez how she and her family including her gay son watched with pride when Valdez won on election night.

At the end of the flight, she told Valdez that she was her son’s hero and her election validated her son. Valdez said her position shouldn’t validate the LGBT community, but further instill in them a sense of confidence in being who they are.

“We do not need this kind of validation to be who we are,” she said. “We just need to be who we are.”

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas LGBT Task Force aims to expand diversity training to all city employees within 3 years

Sherry Durant, Dallas Fire-Rescue LGBT liaison, explains the goal of expanding LGBT training to all city employees at a city services event June 13. The event was the second in the city’s June Pride series. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Fire-Rescue plans to expand its LGBT training program to its veteran employees this summer and eventually to every city employee over the next three years, according to Sherry Durant, the department’s LGBT liaison.

Durant was among six city officials who spoke and answered questions during a panel discussion at the Oak Lawn library branch on Wednesday night. The event drew about 40 people and was the second in Dallas’ “Honor, Educate and Celebrate” June Pride Month series planned by Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force.

Task Force member Pam Gerber said the group has discussed expanding LGBT training to all Dallas city employees and will work with officials to achieve the goal in the future. The only city departments that currently conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training are police and fire.

Durant, who’s served as LGBT liaison for DFR since 2008 and is a member of the Task Force, said 1,048 new recruits have undergone LGBT training since the training program began in 2004. She said she has been working with the Dallas County Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Resource Center Dallas to create a training program for veteran Fire-Rescue employees. The veteran employee training will begin in late July or early August, she said, estimating that it would take about 36 weeks for the 1,248 employees to complete the training.

After DFR finishes its veteran employee training, Durant said she wants to help the veteran police employees undergo the training and then move onto other city departments, so all city employees will have LGBT training within the next three years.

City Manager Mary Suhm, Assistant fire Chief Joseph Vasquez and Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison for Dallas police, joined Durant on the panel and shared what their departments offer the LGBT community. Executive Assistant City Attorney Melissa Miles and Chalisa Warren, senior public information representative with the Fair Housing Office, spoke about the city’s decade-old nondiscrimination ordinance.

Martin oversees the Police Department’s sensitivity training, which helps recruits understand how to handle interactions with members of the LGBT community. She said she will also teach the current officers over the next two years about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. She said a lot of officers are not aware of how the law works because it is a federal law and affects how departments report hate crime statistics to the FBI.

Suhm said during her 35 years working for the city she has seen a lot of improvements for the LGBT community, from training in the police department in the early ’90s to later working with City Council to pass domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Miles said her section of the city attorney’s office handles the discrimination complaints after the Fair Housing Office investigates, working with the alleged violators to inform them about the ordinance and to help educate them even if the complaint is dismissed for no cause.

Questions about the reporting hate crimes and discrimination under the ordinance came up during the meeting, as several in the audience said people do not report incidents of hate or discrimination because they want it to remain confidential.

—  Dallasvoice

Violent crime falls 13% in Oak Lawn hotspot

But jumps in vehicle burglaries, auto thefts fuel overall increase in 2011 for Maple-Wycliff TAAG

Martin.Laura

Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com
Violent crime fell roughly 13 percent last year in the 1-square-mile hotspot that encompasses the Cedar Springs entertainment district and most of the Oak Lawn gayborhood, according to statistics provided by the Dallas Police Department this week.

However, the number of nonviolent offenses jumped 7 percent in the area —including significant spikes in vehicle burglaries and auto thefts — leading to a 4 percent increase in overall crime.

The Maple-Wycliff Target Area Action Grid, previously known as the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG, stretches generally from Maple Avenue to Lemmon Avenue, and from Oak Lawn Avenue to Kings Road.

The area, identified by DPD as one of 27 crime hotspots citywide, recorded 108 violent offenses from Jan. 1 through Dec. 26 of 2011, down from 122 violent offenses during the same period in 2010. Statistics for the final five days of the year were not yet available this week.

The 2011 numbers put the Maple-Wycliff TAAG at No. 7 for violent crime on a list of the city’s worst hotspots. Three years ago, shortly after the hotspots were identified, the Maple-Wycliff TAAG climbed as high as No. 2 on the list.

“I think part of it is the general trend in Dallas and nationally, that crime has gone down,” said Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, whose district includes portions of the Maple-Wycliff TAAG. “I think the other part of it is the additional focus the city has placed on making safety a greater priority in that area.”

Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison for DPD, cited increased patrols, including plainclothes officers, as well as greater community involvement.

“The reason we have TAAG areas is they’re identified as high crime areas, so we address them with extra patrols,” Martin said. “Those areas where we have high crime get more attention, so it would stand to reason that crime would be reduced in those areas.”

Both Hunt and Martin also pointed to improved street lighting in the gayborhood, much of which was initiated by Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats’ Light Up Oak Lawn campaign.

Martin said even the Office Depot at 2929 Oak Lawn Ave. — where the parking lot has long been plagued by aggravated robberies — recently installed additional lighting.

“If you go over there on the weekend now it looks like Christmas,” Martin said. “I don’t believe we’ve had a problem since then at that location.”

The 12.5 percent decrease in violent crime in the Maple-Wycliff TAAG was part of an 8.8 percent reduction citywide — which marked the eighth straight annual decline, a record for Dallas.

The Dallas Morning News reported this week that murders dropped to a 44-year low in 2011, while total crime was down 39 percent over the last eight years.

Factors cited as contributing to the trend include the hiring of hundreds more police officers over the last few years, DPD’s strategy of hotspot policing and the large number of convicts who are behind bars.

However, despite increased attention from police, the news was not all good for the Maple-Wycliff TAAG. Statistics obtained by Dallas Voice show vehicle burglaries jumped 21 percent from 2010 to 2011, while auto thefts jumped 17 percent.

The Maple-Wycliff TAAG recorded 338 vehicle burglaries in 2011 — or an average of almost one per day — up from 280 in 2010.

Martin noted that the number of vehicle burglaries dropped sharply over the last month of 2011. She said this was after DPD made several arrests of burglars who had been very active in the area.

Martin advised people to park in well-lit, nonisolated areas, away from shadows and tree cover, and to lock their vehicles and set their alarms if they have them.

She also said people should take anything from their vehicles they can’t afford to lose, and hide everything else under a seat, or in the glove compartment or trunk.

But she warned people against hiding items after they’ve already parked, because she said criminals look for this.

“You don’t want people to observe you hiding things,” she said. “Make your vehicle a hard target. Burglary of a vehicle a lot of times is a crime of opportunity.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Laura Martin is now a senior corporal

Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department's LGBT liaison officer, accepts her senior corporal badge from Chief David Brown last week.

Of the 400 Dallas police officers who took an exam to become senior corporals this year, LGBT liaison Laura Martin received the highest score.

Martin was one of 37 officers promoted to senior corporal last week (photo above).

She’s been with the department for almost 14 years, including the last five as LGBT liaison officer.

Martin, currently assigned to a community engagement unit at DPD’s Northwest Division, said she doesn’t expect her duties or position to change as a result of the promotion, although she acknowledged that down the road it could “open up the department.”

“You can move around more, although I’m happy where I am,” Martin said. “It’s always good to promote if you get a chance. It’s a little more money and a better pension. … I don’t expect that I’ll be doing anything differently than what I’m already doing.”

—  John Wright

Investigation continues into 2nd fatal hit-and-run on Cedar Springs

LGBT liaison officer says police have ‘good information’ from witnesses; Hunt says efforts to improve safety ‘must be expedited’

HUNT.ANGELA

ANGELA HUNT

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas police are continuing their investigation this week into the Nov. 25 hit-and-run on Cedar Springs Road that claimed the life of Edward Lee King, 61.

LGBT Liaison Officer Laura Martin said police reports indicate King was crossing from the west side to the east side, in the middle of the 4100 block of Cedar Springs, near the Knight Street intersection, around 10:30 p.m., when he was struck by a dark-colored SUV traveling south.

The vehicle, described by witnesses as possibly a Land Rover or a Range Rover with wraparound taillights, sped off without stopping and turned east on Throckmorton Street.

Martin said police have “some pretty good information” from witnesses and hope to locate the driver of the vehicle soon.

King, known to family and friends as Joe, worked part time at Amico Pizza, located on Cedar Springs near the site of the accident. He was the second person to be killed within a three-block area of Cedar Springs in November.

Wayne Priest, 55, was killed Nov. 3 in a hit-and-run near the intersection of Cedar Springs and Reagan Street.

Martin said that the two incidents in November were the second and third traffic incidents involving pedestrians between the 3800 block and the 4200 block of Cedar Springs this year. The first occurred in January, but Martin said the pedestrian in that incident was not seriously injured, according to reports she had seen.

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, whose District 14 lines the east side of Cedar Springs Road where both fatalities occurred, said this week that city officials continue to search for ways to improve safety in the high-traffic entertainment district.

Following Priest’s death early in the month, Hunt told Dallas Voice she had asked city officials to “look into exactly what happened and to make recommendations about how we can move forward in making the area safer.”

This week, following King’s death, Hunt said those efforts “have to be expedited. This is obviously a situation that needs immediate attention.”

She said the city is looking at other cities to see how they have addressed the issue of pedestrian safety in similar areas.

“There are a range of issues involved,” Hunt said. “I am no expert. But we have to find an expedited and thoughtful solution.”
Councilwoman Pauline Medrano, who represents District 2 on the west side of Cedar Springs, did not return calls this week seeking comment.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Levi Crocker claims he was attacked in OKC by 4 gays who hate ‘The A-List: Dallas’

If you’re heading to tonight’s A-List: Dallas watch party at Axiom, you might ask host and cast member Levi Crocker if his head is feeling any better. Gay blogs have been buzzing about Crocker’s tweets from the Thanksgiving weekend in which he claimed he was assaulted in a bar in Oklahoma City. Crocker now seems to be downplaying the incident, but not before posting this pic of what looks like a bloodied scalp after he was apparently hit with a bar stool. Crocker claims the attack was perpetrated by four gay people whose motive was the fact that they don’t like the show.

According to the Oklahoma City Police Department, there is no record of Crocker filing a report about the incident. I tweeted Crocker seeking more info. “I decided to leave this subject alone for now,” he responded earlier today.

This incident comes on the heels of fellow cast member Taylor Garrett’s claims that he was assaulted in Oak Lawn earlier this month.

Crocker’s tweets are after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Gay couple shot near downtown apartment

Police say investigation is ongoing but decline to discuss details

David-Zaragoza-Travis-Vanderlaan

David-Zaragoza, left, and Travis-Vanderlaan, right

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

David Zaragoza and Travis Vanderlaan were shot during a robbery near their Dallas Farmer’s Market-area apartment at about 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18.

One of the victims was shot in the head and the other in the neck. Both are improving and expected to survive.

Two suspects were taken into custody soon after the incident.

According to friends, Zaragoza and Vanderlaan are a couple. The two live at the Camden Farmer’s Market apartments in Downtown Dallas.

Police are releasing very little information about the shootings or the arrests.

“We don’t want to jeopardize the investigation,” said LGBT police liaison Laura Martin.

The names of the suspects arrested are being withheld by police, Martin said. Although she said that was unusual, she said it was because of the ongoing investigation.

She could not confirm if police are looking for additional suspects.

According to Dallas County jail records, however, one of the people taken into custody is Kyle Bibbs, 31, of Carrollton. He is being held in Lew

Sterrett on $100,000 bond for two counts of aggravated robbery.

Police would give no details about the robbery beyond what went into the police reports.

“The complainant was shot during the course of an aggravated robbery,” said the police report. “Complainant was shot twice and robbed.”

The report also indicates that a blue Puma messenger bag containing $3,500 was taken during the robbery but recovered, apparently by police when they arrested the suspects.

Records from 9-1-1 indicate Vanderlaan called for help at 2:46 p.m. on Friday, reporting it as a shooting and robbery. Police were dispatched at 2:47 p.m.

Bibbs’ time of arrest is also listed as 2:47 p.m.

Bibbs has had several prior charges. One case was no billed by the grand jury. One was dismissed. In February, he agreed to plead guilty on a possession of marijuana charge. Dallas County records indicate he had probation revoked for possession of marijuana and possession of a prohibited weapon.

The incident is not being investigated as a random shooting.

Zaragoza is listed on police records making two calls to 9-1-1 earlier this year. No details appear on the reports but the signal codes indicate that one was to report a major disturbance and the other a burglary.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

DPD: Don’t park at Office Depot

Officials warn club-goers after another violent attack in store’s lot

DARK AND DANGEROUS: Office Depot at 2929 Oak Lawn is shown from Dickason Avenue. The red sign is turned off late at night, making the parking lot darker than in this photo. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

In the wake of another violent robbery in the Office Depot lot on Oak Lawn Avenue, Dallas police this week warned club-goers against parking there at night.

Officer Laura Martin, DPD’s liaison officer to the LGBT community, said the lot at 2929 Oak Lawn Ave. has long been a trouble spot for crime after hours, primarily because it’s so poorly lit.

In the latest incident, three people who’d been out on the Cedar Springs strip were robbed at gunpoint and carjacked early Sunday, Oct. 23.

According to DPD records, it was at least the fourth aggravated robbery in the Office Depot lot in the last three months — in addition to numerous other offenses such as vehicle burglaries.

“That Office Depot has just been a thorn in our side for several years,” Martin said Wednesday, Oct. 26. “We would prefer that people didn’t park there. I don’t anticipate that that problem is going to go away unless we improve lighting over there significantly. I would just advise people not to park in that parking lot and not to park on that street near the parking lot.”

Martin said undercover officers have been patrolling the area, but the city is powerless to improve lighting in the parking lot itself since it’s on private property. Deputy Chief Malik Aziz, who heads up DPD’s Northwest Division, has been working with city officials to improve street lighting nearby, Martin said. However, light from city fixtures on Dickason Avenue is blocked by trees lining the northeast side of the parking lot.

DPD officials recently met with Office Depot representatives, who said they have no plans to add lights in the parking lot, Martin said. She also noted that Office Depot once towed vehicles from the lot but stopped doing so in the wake of complaints from the community.

“Office Depot is not going to be doing anything differently,” Martin said. “They’re not going to tow cars and they’re not going to increase lighting. They don’t want to tow vehicles because of all the complaints they got when they did tow vehicles, and they’re not going to add lighting because they don’t have the money to add lighting.”

An assistant manager who answered the phone at Office Depot declined to comment. He referred questions to the store manager, whom he said was not available.

Jared Pearce, president of Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats, called on Office Depot to help address the problem. DSYD’s recent Light Up Oak Lawn safety campaign led to the city installing 45 new lights in the area, but none near Office Depot.

“Good stewards of the community can put lights up themselves,” Pearce said. “Office Depot could do it for a lot cheaper than the city could.”

One of the victims in last week’s robbery said he doesn’t normally park at Office Depot — but did so that night because a friend was driving his car. The 21-year-old and his two friends, all from Tyler, had returned to his vehicle from Station 4 at about 3 a.m. Sunday.

The victim was sitting in the passenger seat, and his two friends were talking in the parking lot. The two suspects, described as black males wearing hooded sweatshirts, pulled up behind them in a white Dodge Avenger. The suspects got out, pointed handguns at his friends and said, “Get on the ground, give me your money.” One of the suspects then got into the victim’s 2010 Toyota and said, “Get out of the car or I’ll blow your head off.”

After the victim got out, the suspect drove off in the victim’s Toyota, while the second suspect drove off in the Dodge.
Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD, said police later recovered the stolen vehicle with no wheels or tires at an apartment complex in the 1100 block of North St. Augustine Road.

“Detectives are still waiting for physical evidence collected in the recovered vehicle to be analyzed and returned,” Janse said Wednesday.

The victim, meanwhile, was trying to figure out how to get the badly damaged vehicle back to East Texas, where he’s a college student. He said the car, valued at $36,000, was mostly paid for, but his insurance had lapsed two days before the robbery.

“They won’t cover it,” he said. “I’m just out of luck.

“I’m a student so I pretty much live in my car, and I had everything in my trunk,” he added. “Literally, they took my underwear.”

The victim said he normally tries to park directly behind the Cedar Springs nightclubs because his car had previously been burglarized in Oak Lawn. And he echoed Martin’s advisory about the Office Depot lot.

“Even though it might be hard to get a parking spot, keep trying somewhere closer and somewhere where it’s light,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas