Outrage Mounts After 2 Marines Viciously Beat Gay Man in Savanah, Ga.

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday June 15, 2010

A gay man was attacked by two Marines in Savannah, Georgia, reportedly because the soldiers thought that he was "winking" at them.

Kieran Daly was struck in the back of the head shortly before 4:00 a.m. on June 12, following an altercation with the two Marines, reported the local newspaper the Savannah Morning News that same day. A police officer saw the Marines running, then received word of the incident, the article said. The officer investigated the scene where Daly lay on the ground being given CPR by his friends, and then chased after and arrested the Marines, identified as Keil Cronauer, 22, and Christopher Stanzel, 23.

The Marines said that Daly had come on to them, saying sexually suggestive things and following close behind them; but their story was contradicted by witnesses who said that the Marines accused Daly of winking at them.

Daly suffered bruising to the brain, but was talking to the media from the hospital later that day. "The guy thought I was winking at him," Daly recounted. "I told him, 'I was squinting, man... I'm tired.' " Daly added that, "the last thing I remember is walking away. I remember the feeling of getting hit, but I only kind of remember it." According to witnesses, one of the Marines punched the back of Daly's head as he was walking away.

The article noted that there is no state law that provides hate crimes protections for GLBTs in Georgia. "We can't even walk on the street and be out and gay on the street," said Jesse Morgan of Armstrong State University's Gay-Straight Alliance. "Our punishment for that is anyone attacking us just for being who we are. This type of behavior has to stop."

GLBT advocacy organization Georgia Equality issued an action alert via email, telling recipients of the message that, "Although there were multiple eye-witnesses who confirmed that the attack was unprovoked, local police authorities charged the men with a misdemeanor and released them into the custody of military police."

Added the release, "Georgia Equality is working with members of the local community in Savannah to coordinate a response to this vicious attack, the third in less than five years."

"What happened this weekend is another reminder we have a problem here," said a board member of the organization, Kevin Clark. "We hope this is the straw that breaks the camel's back and the law enforcement and judicial leaders will make an example of this case."

Clark continued, "This has really got to stop. This violence is so uncalled for. We are all feeling frustration and anger here. And while we get a lot of support from the LGBT community, we don't see a lot of support from the community at large--we need to see shock and outrage from city officials."

The release encouraged recipients to urge state lawmakers to pass a measure that would put a hate crimes law on the state's books.

The Savannah Morning News confirmed in a June 14 article that the Marines had been taken into custody by the military, saying that they were being held at a military base in South Carolina. The article said that military officials were conducting an internal investigation into the matter. The FBI, meantime, has also begun an investigation, as the incident may be liable to prosecution under federal law.

GLBT news blog JoeMyGod.com reported on June 15 that the two accused Marines claimed that Daly had come on to them and followed them. They also said that someone associated with Daly had threatened them.

"Although this certainly does not justify the actions of the Marine who punched the individual, it is important for us to consider both sides of the story," said Col David Robinson, Commanding Officer, MAG-31. "As with most incidents there are multiple perspectives, accounts and recollections. The facts of this isolated incident will come out through investigations by civilian and military authorities.

"Although the initial reports from the arresting officer and the media coverage of the incident are widely disparate, we are committed to resolving the inconsistencies between the reports," added Robinson.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.