Rock-throwing vandals break 9 windows at Dallas’ LGBT community center

IMG_5425

Nine windows were broken at Resource Center Dallas on Thursday, May 30. All of them were along the back wall of the main building facing the alley.

The windows were broken with rocks. No one entered the building and nothing was missing. Computer equipment sits behind some of the windows but nothing was damaged.

In March, four windows were broken by vandals.

“The number is surprising,” RCD spokesman Rafael McDonnell said. “More than we’ve seen previously.”

He said repairing the windows will cost about $300 and the center is looking into buying security cameras.

“Money used for this is money that can’t be used for something else,” he said.

He asked people in the neighborhood who see something suspicious going on in the alley, especially after hours, to call the police.

Dallas police LGBT liaison Laura Martin said there are no suspects and no evidence the vandalism is a hate crime but that motive has not been ruled out.

—  David Taffet

Arlington police arrest 1st suspect in anti-gay hate crime; 4 others expected to turn themselves in

Daniel Sibley

Arlington police have arrested one teenager and expect four more to turn themselves in after video footage identified them as suspects in a vandalism spree June 10 that included anti-gay slurs spray-painted on a lesbian couple’s SUV.

Sgt. Christopher Cook said Wednesday during a press conference that Fort Worth teen Daniel Sibley, 18, was arrested Tuesday. He is in custody on a $2,500 bond.

Cook explained that two surveillance cameras on residences captured several teens spray-painting derogatory images and words on homes and cars in a total of 13 incidents. The second video captured the vehicle information and led to the identification of five teens ages 16-18.

Cook said the two other adults have attorneys and will be booked into jail Wednesday afternoon. A female juvenile is also expected to turn herself in. Police are still trying to contact a female adult.

All suspects will be charged with the state jail felony of criminal mischief for damage ranging from $1,500-$20,000.

The punishment for a state jail felony is 180 days to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. If the classification is enhanced by the hate crime statute to a third-degree felony, the teens could face two to 10 years behind bars in addition to the fine.

A racial slur was spray-painted on a vehicle, but Cook said it not being reported as a hate crime because the man who owned the car was Caucasian. He said based on the statement from Sibley that the teens saw a sticker on the lesbian couple’s SUV – which featured two female caricatures with a child and pet – and made an assumption that they were gay before vandalizing the vehicle.

Arlington police Chief Will Johnson

Acting police chief Will Johnson said it was clear that the incident involving the lesbian couple was hate crime from early on because the words “queers” and “faggot” were spray-painted on their SUV.

“A crime of hatred is not only a crime against an individual but it is a crime against the community,” he said. “Early in this investigation it was clear that hateful and biased language was used to damage property at multiple locations. It was equally clear that at least one of our 13 victims was targeted specifically because of their sexual orientation.”

He said the incident would be reported to the FBI as a hate crime and that authorities would continue to investigate and prosecute hate crimes in Arlington in the future.

“We are committed in Arlington to prevent all crime especially crime that was committed for no other reason than possibly toward hatred,” Johnson said. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated, it will be fully investigated — and to the fullest extent of the law prosecuted.”

Kim Lovering said she and her partner were woken up by police early Sunday morning, June 10. Neighbors had already called police but she said her family was unaware of the vandalism to their SUV. She said she was grateful her son, not yet 2, was too young to understand what happened.

From the police presence to Johnson calling her later that day to check on her family, Lovering said she was impressed by the support from the community and police.

“They stood behind us,” she said. “It was really a huge relief that something like this was handled the right way. And I’m glad it’s our city.”

As for the arrest and suspected capture of the remaining suspects, she said it will help her sleep at night and hopes the teens’ arrests will change their attitudes.

“I’m so thankful for the way this turned out just for our safety and peace of mind,” she said.

Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable praised the police response, calling it a “textbook” example of how police should respond and engage with the community.

Anable said anti-gay slurs are “so offensive and dehumanizing” and “will never go away,” adding that the quick identification and arrest of suspects send the message that hate crimes won’t be tolerated anymore.

“It’s nothing new for us. What is new is having a dialogue with law enforcement and the FBI,” he said. “I can’t say enough about how well the Arlington Police Department handled this. … It is absolutely textbook perfect.”

Anable said his organization has reached out to the Human Rights Campaign to try to bring national attention to “how things can go right.”

“The citizens of Arlington should take great pride in their police department and the quality of their city,” he said.

HRC released a statement Wednesday applauding Arlington PD for “responding swiftly and thoroughly.”

The full HRC statement is below, along with video from the press conference.

—  Anna Waugh

Arlington PD says Grand Prairie penis grafitti not linked to its case that included anti-gay slurs

After reviewing the evidence of two vandalism sprees this week in Arlington and Grand Prairie, police don’t believe they are related.

The first spree occurred early Sunday morning with 10 residences in the 1100 block of Crowley Road defaced with hateful words and crude images, Arlington police spokeswoman Tiara Richard said. The words “faggot” and “queers” were also spray-painted on a lesbian couple’s car. While Richard said it “looks like a hate crime,” police aren’t calling it a hate crime yet until they complete their investigation and identify a motive.

Then on Tuesday, Grand Prairie received 10 reports from residents in the 900 block of Furlong Drive and 2700 block of Triple Crown Lane. Many of the images were penises, GD detective Lyle Gensler said. Because the Arlington incidents had just occurred and penises were used in both cases, he said police thought they could be linked and would compare the images.

Richard told Instant Tea Friday that “based on the evidence, it does not appear that these cases are connected.”

Gensler said it was most likely teenagers who committed the Grand Prairie vandalism, but Arlington PD hasn’t elaborated on the leads it is pursuing.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

—  Anna Waugh

Penis paintings link vandalism in Grand Prairie to spree in Arlington that included anti-gay slurs

Grand Prairie police are working with Arlington police to determine whether the same vandals are responsible for spray-painted penises that appeared on homes and cars in both of the cities recently.

Detective Lyle Gensler with Grand Prairie police said 10 residences had defaced homes and cars featuring vulgar images spray-painted between 2-6 a.m. Tuesday in the 900 block of Furlong Drive and 2700 block of Triple Crown Lane.

Gensler said several of the images were penises, which were also used in defacing 10 residences in the 1100 block of Crowley Road in Arlington over the weekend, during which anti-gay slurs were also spray-painted on a lesbian couple’s SUV.

Gensler said no biased words targeting race, religion or sexual orientation were used in the Grand Prairie incidents.

Investigators have been in contact with Arlington police and are looking into the same leads, he said.

“We actually are going to compare the two based on the way they were drawn,” he said.

As for the culprits, Gensler said it is most likely teenagers that are responsible for the vandalism.

Arlington police spokesman Tiara Richard said Tuesday morning that although the incident involving the lesbian couple “looks like a hate crime,” it’s too soon to say that definitively.

It’s up to the district attorney’s office to decide whether to prosecute cases as hate crimes in Texas. However, law enforcement agencies do classify cases as hate crimes for the purpose of reporting them to the FBI each year.

But Richard said the determination about whether to report the incident as a hate crime to the FBI won’t be made until the investigation is complete. She took issue with a headline on Instant Tea from Monday which indicated police weren’t “investigating” the incident as a hate crime. Rather, Richard said, Arlington police simply aren’t calling it a hate crime — at least not yet. The headline has since been changed.

“When it comes to criminal investigations, we let the investigation tell us what something is,” Richard said. “We don’t make determinations on the front end of what something is.

“It looks like a hate crime,” Richard added. “It looks like this couple was targeted because of their sexual orientation, and that’s a big element of the investigative process, and that’s part of what we’ll look into. However, until an investigation is complete … they’re not going to call it something that we may in the investigation find that it’s not.”

—  Anna Waugh

UPDATE: Arlington police not yet calling anti-gay graffiti on lesbian couple’s vehicle a hate crime

Arlington police say they aren’t yet calling incident in which a lesbian couple’s SUV was spray-painted with anti-gay slurs a hate crime.

The couple was among the victims in a string of 10 incidents of vandalism in the 1100 block of Crowley Road over the weekend. Tiara Richard, a spokeswoman for Arlington Police Department, said the targeted residences had spray-painted images and words on the houses and cars. Homeowners reported the vandalism to police early Sunday morning.

One of the homes belonged to a lesbian couple, whose SUV, pictured above, had the words “faggot” and “queers” spray-painted on it.

Richard said police are not yet calling the incident a hate crime because it is one of 10 incidents.

“We’re investigating it as a crime,” she said. “If there’s a hate element to it, we’ll share that with the district attorney’s office, and they’ll make that call.”

—  Anna Waugh

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

Memories of Pride: Alcohol, sweat, vandalism

I enjoyed going to Pride this year. I really did. I arrived early and met up with my son Christopher, whom I didn’t even know was coming to town, and we had a fun time catching up at the Instinct booth at the festival. I ate free ice cream and got free condoms (large size — what can I say?). I was groped (a little) and sweated (a lot) and had tons of free drinks at the ilume party.

And my car was broken into.

Sigh. Can’t have it all.

The good thing was, there was damage, but nothing missing. As far as I can tell. I think I had a pair of shoes in there, which I can’t find. I had some gym clothes (expensive) and coupons from last year’s State Fair, which opens Friday and they are still good! No cash. They did break into the locked burled wood console glove compartment and took an old cell phone case which, interestingly enough, does not fit my current cell phone (I keep gas receipts in it). Maybe they saw my paycheck stub and took mercy on me. I don’t know. But it could have been worse.

They did not break through a window or trash the car excessively. It took 10 minutes to clean up (and I needed to clean it up anyway). They weren’t the smartest thieves. They stayed out of the trunk, where I haul around gold bullion and Old Masters art. (Sorry, fellas! Betta luck next time!) My mom and others have said, “It’s so violating!” But it really doesn’t bother me all that much. After all, they left their finger prints EVERYWHERE and I assume they have criminal records and will be caught. They are criminals, after all.

But I don’t resent it, nor have I sworn off Cedar Springs. I fared OK. I’m moving forward. And next year, maybe I’ll valet.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Donations needed for Tenn. lesbian couple who lost their home in possible anti-gay arson

“Love thy neighbor as thyself” — it is one of the most well-known verses in the Christian Bible. Now you have a chance to put that Scripture into action and help a lesbian couple in Vonore, Tenn.

The evening of Sept. 4, Carol Ann and Laura Stutte had gone into Nashville for dinner to celebrate the fifth anniversary of leaving Oklahoma to move into what they called their “dream home” just outside Vonore. But then they got the call from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office telling them their dream was going up in smoke: Their house was on fire.

As they drove up to the smoldering remains of their home, they saw the insult that had been heaped on top of injury: Someone had painted the word “Queers” in big, black letters across the white wall of their detached garage, which had not been destroyed by the fire.

The two women believe that the fire was the latest — and worst — in a string of anti-gay incidents that have plagued them since shortly after they moved into the house, things like having nails strewn across their driveway and the lug nuts on their boat trailer loosened. Plus, Carol Ann told KnoxNews.com, there were the threats and insults from a neighbor who once told them this “joke”: What’s better than a dead queer? Two dead queers.

The neighbor, Carol Ann said, had also told them she would burn their house down.

For five years, Carol Ann said she and Laura chose to just “turn the other cheek” and try to “keep the peace.” But in August, they reached a breaking point and reported the ongoing harassment and vandalism to the sheriff’s department. (Go to KnoxNews.com to see video of the two women talking about the fire.)

Sheriff Bill Bivens said his department has not determined whether the fire was a hate crime, but is definitely investigating the possibility. The Tennessee Bomb and Arson Investigative is also looking into the fire.

Carol Ann, a 47-year-old landscaper, and Laura, a 48-year-old nurse, have said they will never rebuild on that same site, and are too afraid to return to Vonore. For now, they are staying in a safe house at an undisclosed location. Carol Ann’s 26-year-old daughter, Kimberly Holloway, had been living with them at the home in Vonore. She is now staying at a separate safe house location.

For several days after the fire, the Stuttes didn’t talk to anyone about what had happened. When they finally did go public, the community responded. A special fund has been set up for them at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville (yes, that is the same church where a man opened fire during a children’s production of “Annie” back in 2008 because he was angry over the church’s liberal bent). Ben Byers with Tennessee Equality Project’s Knoxville committee said a benefit concert is planned, and the Maryville chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is accepting contributions of clothing and toiletries for the women and dog food for their three dogs who survived the fire.

If you want to help, you can contact either the church or the PFLAG chapter. If you want to send a message of support, you can do that at the “We Support The Stutte Family” Facebook page.

—  admin

FWPD chief hopes to start hate crimes unit

Halstead asks for community’s help in securing funds for special unit, pledges to increase diversity


Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

SEEKING INPUT | Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead listens to one of the more than 50 residents who attended a FWPD Diversity Forum this week. During the forum, Halstead announced plans to seek grants to fund a special unit to investigate hate crimes in the city. (Tammye Nash/DallasVoice)

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead this week reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining a diverse police force staffed by officers who are aware of and sensitive to the special needs and issues of the city’s racially, ethnically and culturally diverse communities.

“We need people like the community to serve the community,” Halstead said during the community forum held Tuesday night, Aug. 31, at the Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods.

“There is strength in diversity, and if the police department doesn’t grow in diversity along with the city, you will see the gap,” Halstead said.

The chief also said he is pursuing grant money the department could use to establish a special unit, or at least an individual officer, dedicated specifically to investigating hate crimes in the city.

Halstead told the more than 50 people gathered for the Fort Worth Police Department Diversity Forum — organized by the department’s public relations department — that the department currently has no one trained to investigate hate crimes, which he said come with a special set of often intense and intensely-sensitive issues.

Hate crimes — such recent incidents of vandalism at a local mosque — “come with a nexus of issues that don’t occur in every crime,” Halstead said, adding that when officers who aren’t trained to recognize and deal with hate crimes can come across as rude and insensitive because “they are not understanding those special issues and the motivation behind such crimes.”

Halstead said that he has a “very narrow window of opportunity that is already closing” to acquire funding for a hate crimes unit, and he asked the community to “help us in moving forward with this.”

He asked that those in the community interested in helping the department by providing the information necessary to prove need for such a unit contact Lt. Paul Henderson, his chief of staff, at 817-392-4241.

Building diversity

Halstead said that he had recently returned from the three-day Consortium for Police Leadership and Equity conference, dedicated to building diversity and equity within police departments.

He said he had been invited to the conference “because of the progress we’re making” in Fort Worth toward those goals. But he acknowledged that the FWPD faces “significant challenges” in maintaining a diverse police force over the next five to 20 years. Some of those challenges, he said, arise out of the deep budget cuts forced on the city by the ongoing economic crisis.

“Some departments have had to sell off whole work divisions to make their budgets. We have had to be very creative to meet the 5 percent cuts the city has asked us to make,” Halstead said. “We are already grossly under-staffed. But we have cut $9 million from our budget without one layoff.”

To do that, the chief said, the police department has “retooled parts of our organization to maximize efficiency in our highest priority services,” but he added that the department has to plan today to meet the needs of future.

“What will our city look like in 20 years? We have to think about that now in our recruitment. We don’t have enough diversity in the department now, and that need will just continue to grow as the city grows,” he said. “We need to see a higher mix of persons to serve our rapidly growing city. You all know people in your communities who would make excellent police officers. We need you to encourage them to pursue this as a career.”

Recruitment officers speaking at the forum said that a group of about 1,450 applicants were that same night taking the civil service exam to join the department, and they “appear to be a very diverse group.”

LINES OF COMMUNICATION | Officer Sara Straten, the Fort Worth Police Department’s LGBT liaison, talks to Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable after Tuesday’s FWPD Diversity Forum. Chief Jeffrey Halstead created Straten’s liaison position following the June 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge, the same incident that prompted the creation of Fairness Fort Worth. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

That group of applicants represented “about 50 percent” of those who had been identified as eligible to apply, according to Sgt. Klein, who said the applicants had been recruited from forums that include LGBT job fairs, military job fairs, church activities, community forums, crime fairs and college and university campuses.

She said that the department has no openings beyond this current class of officer trainees, but that “we feel it is important for the academy staff to stay in contact” with possible future cadets. To that end, academy staff members will continue to attend job fairs and community events, including the upcoming Tarrant County Gay Pride Week parade, block party and picnic, set for early October.

Klein said that possible recruits are not asked about their sexual orientation, so she had no idea how many of those take the civil service exam for the next academy class were LGBT.

However, Sgt. Garcia, another academy staff member, said that FWPD recruiters “interest was great” at a recent LGBT job fair FWPD recruiters attended. “We got a great reception there.And based on the number of e-mails I got afterward, I believe we got a great response” in terms of LGBT people who applied.

The department’s LGBT liaison, Officer Sara Straten, later said she, too, had received a large number of e-mails and phone calls from people in the LGBT community interested in applying for the police force.

Halstead said he believes the response from the LGBT community has come in response to the department’s outreach to the community in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid in June 2009.

“Where else have you seen such a catastrophic event happen, and then seen such good things happen?” Halstead said. “We do have challenges ahead of us, but this department is more open and caring than ever before.”

He continued, “The biggest challenge for any officer is fulfilling the expectations of the job and of the community. Sometimes an officer’s actions can be perceived as rude, but anyone who takes the oath has a personal calling to protect.”

Halstead described an incident that happened to him as a young man living in Miami when an officer there stopped him without cause and assaulted him “just because I had long hair and dark skin and was driving a fancy car,” which the officer saw as a sure sign he was a drug dealer.

That incident, he said, instilled in him the drive to create a police force where such things wouldn’t happen.

“I have zero tolerance for anyone being disrespected” by an officer on his police force, he said. “If you do that, you have violated your oath. Now the challenge for me is to build a police force that provides holistic service, 24-7. An officer can provide great service, even after an arrest has been made.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Hate rears its head on the lake

Anti-gay vandalism is a reminder that hate can hide in even the most accepting communities

David Webb The Rare Reporter

It’s taken a while for the ugly specter of anti-gay hate crime to rise over Cedar Creek Lake, but it was probably inevitable.

With two gay bars and large numbers of gay and lesbian couples living together in full-time residences and weekend homes, the community has become highly visible over the past couple of decades. For the most part the straight community has always seemed tolerant, but it is a conservative religious area.

To the best of everyone’s recollection, no one on the lake had ever reported being harassed, threatened or beat up or having their property vandalized because they were gay —until June 20.

That’s when a gay male couple living in Payne Springs woke up to find extensive damage to their truck.

They found the windshield busted, all four tires slashed, parts ripped off the truck and anti-gay graffiti — including the words “Die Fag” — scrawled all over the truck. The damage was so bad that the vehicle will be unusable for several weeks, and the couple cannot really afford to rent a car in the meantime.

Initially, the couple posted a message on their Facebook page with pictures of the damage. But they later took it down and asked for privacy. They said they just wanted to move on and did not want to become a cause for the community to rally around.

It is likely the men are suffering from psychological trauma. Hate crime researchers point out that victims are often left terrified, fearing retribution and feeling vulnerable to more attacks if there is widespread attention drawn to them.

The possibility exists that there may have been other anti-gay hate crimes committed on the lake, and they were never reported because of those same fears.

According to the FBI’s most recent “Hate Crime Statistics” report, almost 18 percent of all hate crimes occurring in the U.S. are attributed to sexual orientation bias. The crimes occur all across the country in cities and towns of all sizes and demographics.

In addition to the impact on the victims, hate crimes reportedly also have an intimidating effect on the entire community to which the victims belong.

That’s why it is important for the community to rally behind such victims and to band together in speaking out against hate crimes. Usually, there are supportive straight people who want to join the cause, and that is already happening on the lake.

Immediately after hearing about the crime, a straight couple sent an e-mail volunteering to be a part of any activities that might be undertaken to promote tolerance and discourage hate crimes.

That’s what is happening now, too, in Savannah, Ga., where two Marines from a South Carolina military base were arrested recently on charges they allegedly assaulted a gay man because they thought he winked at them. The LGBT community held a rally this week in the square where the gay man was found unconscious.

It’s also a good idea to take steps to combat hate crimes with community events because they rarely are isolated incidents. The perpetrators of hate crimes often begin with lower-level types of crime such as harassment and vandalism and go on to more violent activity when they don’t suffer any repercussions from the earlier crimes.

Just about everyone realizes now that June is celebrated across the country as Gay Pride Month, and that draws more attention to the LGBT community. The national debate about gay rights, such as the proposal to abolish “don’t ask, don’t tell” has the same effect.

If nothing else, everyone needs to be aware of the danger of hate crime activity in an area and to be careful. It can happen to anyone at anytime, almost anywhere.

David Webb is a former staff writer for the Dallas Voice who lives on Cedar Creek Lake now. He is the author of the blog TheRareReporter.blogspot.com. He can be reached at davidwaynewebb@embarqmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice