D.C. Police Close to Arrest in Fatal Gay Bashing

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday September 26, 2008

A gay man from MD was attacked and fatally injured in Washington, D.C., in the vicinity of a gay establishment. The slaying fits a larger pattern that has emerged of late, of hate crimes taking place near gay night spots.

D.C. police claimed to be nearing an arrest of at least on suspect in the killing of Tony Hunter, reported The Washington Blade in a Sept. 26 article.

That reassurance was offered by Assistant D.C. Police Chief Diane Grooms, said the article.

Grooms appeared before Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), which met on Sept. 22, the Blade said.

Hunter was reportedly attacked Sept. 7 by a group of four young African-American men just after he and a friend, Trevor Carter, left their car, which they had parked on a dead-end street near gay D.C. night spot BeBar.

Hunter died ten days later, the Blade article said.

Police reportedly saw the assailants running from the scene of the attack.

According to the Blade, Alexander Padro, who serves as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, said that contacts within the police department had told him that police were in the process of securing a warrant for the arrest of a suspect.

That suspect, said Padro, had admitted to attacking Hunter, but claimed it was in the course of defending himself from a sexual advance made by Hunter.

The Blade article quoted Padro as saying, "I'm very concerned that this guy is trying to use the gay-panic defense.

"It's ridiculous, and I hope the police don't fall for that kind of nonsense."

The Blade reported that a police spokesperson, Tracy Hughes, confirmed that there was a "person of interest" who had been identified, but that Hughes had said, "No warrant has been issued."

Added Hughes, "Detectives are continuing to follow up on several leads."

Police reports do not indicate that any sexual advance was made by either Hunter or Travis.

The police report says that at 11:30 p.m., as Hunter and Carter were on their way from their parking spot to BeBar, the four males who allegedly attacked them approached. One of the young men reportedly said, "What's up?"

Then the four attacked, knocking the men down.

The article related that Carter told a friend that he struck back at the attackers and then fled, thinking that Hunter was also running from the attackers.

Hunter, however, had been left unconscious by the attack. He died in Howard University Hospital ten days later.

Police initially investigated the attack as a possible hate crime, given the proximity of the assault to the gay club, but then changed their approach when a lack of evidence did not support that theory.

The attack is now being investigated as a robbery, according to acting Lt. Brett Parson, who added, "But this does not rule out a future decision to classify it as a hate crime."

Parson, who is the director of the special liaison units for the D.C. police, accompanied Grooms to the GLOV meeting.

The Blade recounted that the Sept. 7 attack was only one of a number of similar violent encounters that had taken place near gay establishments.

Six other assaults against gay or transgendered individuals have taken place in the past year; all were determined to be hate crimes, the Blade reported.

The other incidents ranged from two Sept. 2007 attacks, targeting a transgendered woman and a gay man respectively, in which three minors uttered anti-gay slurs during the assaults, to separate instances over this past summer in which groups assaulted gay men: three victims in one case, and two in the other. In both of the latter incidents, the assailants gave voice to anti-gay slurs.

In only one of the six cases was an arrest made, and that individual was freed due to a lack of evidence.

The Blade reported that those in attendance at the GLOV meeting told police that there was a feeling among the GLBT community that there was now more violence directed at gays, despite a drop in overall violent crime.

Said Parson in response, "Perception is reality,"

The Blade reported that D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said at a recent press conference that he did not care to respond to "perceptions" in the matter of anti-gay violence in D.C.

BeBar hosted a memorial for Hunter on Sept. 18.

A second memorial will take place at 6:00 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Metropolitan Community Church, the Blade reported, with a procession to the location of the attack and a candlelight vigil to follow.

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.