Rashawn & Beyond: Anti-Violence News for Queer People of Color

The Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund aims to establish a sustainable tribute to Rashawn that promotes critical thought about the impact of violence and intolerance, particularly upon queer communities of African descent.

Through this blog, we provide action alerts, event postings and breaking news as a means of informing these communities in ways that enable them to combat racism and homophobia.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Police arrest one suspect involved in July hate crime

Source: MetroWeekly
By: Yusef Najafi

The Washington Metropolitan Police Department announced late Monday, Sept. 29, that a suspect involved in an apparent hate crime has been arrested. According to the MPD, the suspect is a teenage male and D.C. resident, who was apprehended on Thursday, Sept. 25, and charged with aggravated assault. His name was not released because he is a juvenile.

The youth is suspected of being involved in the July 13 attack of three gay men who were assaulted around 4:30 a.m. after leaving a private party in the 1800 block of Kalorama Road, in Adams Morgan. Among the victims was Todd Metrokin, 39, whose substantial injuries required several stitches and left a boot print on his face. He has since spoken widely about the attack, helping to raise community awareness.

In late July, the MPD announced that it was seeking five suspects involved in the attack, describing all suspects as ''black males in their late teens or early twenties,'' with one wearing a black baseball cap, white tank-top and jeans.

The Sept. 25 arrest comes more than two months after the incident occurred, yet gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Jack Jacobson, of ANC 2B04 in Dupont Circle, who contacted Metro Weekly in July following the attack, says he is encouraged by the news.

''I think it's more important that the arrest be made correctly than that it be made immediately,'' Jacobson says. ''Of course you always hope that these arrests would happen more quickly, but it took a while for the Police to build their case and, working with the District Attorney's Office, I'm confident that this will lead to a conviction.''

The MPD have no further details at this time regarding the remaining suspects.

Says Jacobson: ''I'm hopeful that this arrest will lead to arrests of the other suspects in the case and prosecution of all them who are responsible for the attack.''

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the GLLU at 877-495-5995.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quick Murder Verdict in 2001 Edgar Garzon Slaying in Jackson Heights

Source: Gay City News

Almost exactly seven years after the Jackson Heights slaying of Edgar Garzon (shown here), John L. McGhee has been convicted of his murder.
A Queens jury quickly convicte d John L. McGhee of second-degree murder in the 2001 killing of Edgar Garzon, a 35-year-old gay man.

"It shows the tenacity of his mother," said Andres Duque, a friend of Garzon's. "She pushed, she knocked on every door, she went to every government representative she could... It does bring closure to a family that has been seeking closure for all this time."

The jury deliberated for, at most, one day after hearing closing statements the morning of September 10. They returned the verdict just after noon on September 11.

Once their deliberations began, jurors asked to have testimony from 21-year-old Christopher Ricalde, the sole eyewitness to the attack, and a detective in the case read back. They also looked at other evidence, but the speed with which they convicted McGhee, 40, suggests they had little debate about his guilt.

In a statement, Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, said, "It was an ugly and brutal act of savagery that will now result in the defendant serving what will probably be the rest of his life behind bars."

McGhee attacked Garzon on 77th Street in Jackson Heights on August 15, 2001. Garzon remained in a coma until his death on September 4, 2001. McGhee, 40, left the US for England in December 2001.

Police knew that at least two men were present at the assault and they drove away in a red car. Ricalde, who was 14 at the time, came forward in early 2003 and identified McGhee as the assailant.

Police located McGhee in England in 2003. He was sent back to the US by British authorities in June of 2006 after he lied on a visa application there. New York City police met his flight from England and he was arrested hours later.

McGhee faces a minimum sentence o f 15-to-life, but could get as much as 25-to-life when sentenced on September 29. McGhee's 2007 trial in the case ended with the judge declaring a mistrial.

At the first trial, Charles D. Abercrombie, McGhee's attorney, mounted an effective cross-examination of Ricalde, whose testimony was often contradictory and confusing, and used that in a convincing summation. In the second trial, Karen L. Ross, the prosecutor in the case, limited Ricalde's time on the stand and gave Abercrombie fewer ways to attack his testimony.

"We are happy that the Queens district attorney successfully prosecuted this crime," said Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP). "We hope that this sends a statement that bias crimes against the LGBT community won't be tolerated in New York City."

Rally Against Hate Crime & Violence



On August 24th 2008, LGBT musician singer songwriter GEO VAUGHN www.myspace.com/geovaughn was the victim of a brutal hate crime here on the streets of New York City. GEO was brutally attacked by six males after GEO and a friend asked one of his attackers if he could confirm the address of the nightclub.When asked if they knew of its whereabouts GEO was called anti – GAY slurs, knocked to the ground stomped and brutally beaten by his attackers. Three of the six assailants were immediately captured while three still remain at large pending investigation.

Not one to be taken lightly GEO VAUGHN is fighting back! While still in recovery from wounds sustained from the attack, (and battling chronic Epilepsy) GEO has joined forces with friends , music fans and LGBT Community supporters OUTmusic www.outmusic.com , The NY LGBT Community Center, www.gaycenter.org , AVP- The NYC Gay& Lesbian Anti Violence Project www.avp.org and Our Youth New Jersey www.myspace.com/our_youth .

Together and in support of GEO Vaughn- a rally will take place on Saturday September 13th at Foley Square (City Hall) NYC 3pm -6pm. With special guest appearances by, OUTmusic member and NYC Hate Crime Survivor recording artist KEVIN AVIANCE, OUTmusic CEO DEIDRA MEREDITH, and NY LGBT CENTER Speaker, Special concert performances by LGBT recording artists , DAN MANJOVI, FRANK GRIMALDI, MORRY CAMPBELL, BRIAN KENT, SCANDELLE, DEEPA SOUL, MICHAEL LYNCH, STEVE KAUFMAN, and SCOTTIE GAGE.


CLARENCE JOHNSON - OUTmusic Events Coordinator and Director of Volunteer Staffing clarence@outmusic.com

Clarence Johnson
New Events Coordinator/ Director Of Volunteer Staffing
PO Box 376
Old Chelsea Station
New York NY USA 10113-0376
Cell (718) 913 - 0442

Friday, September 05, 2008

College Student Found Strangled in Chelsea Apt.; 22-year-old Confesses

Source: New York Blade

College Student Found Strangled in Chelsea Apt.; 22-year-old Confesses
Anti-Violence Project explains how our reactions to the murder can influence our own safety and well-being. Plus: Safety tips for dating and online encounters.

Sep. 05, 2008

Gay 19-year-old student Kevin Pravia was found strangled in his Chelsea apartment Sunday evening, Aug. 31. By Tuesday, a 22-year-old had confessed to the crime; he now faces murder charges.

But the story doesn’t end there. How we as individuals and as members of the LGBT community discuss and interpret the facts of the case can affect our future safety, said Kim Fountain, the deputy director of the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project.

According to police and news reports, Pravia, a sophomore at Pace University, was last seen about 5 a.m. Saturday. He was drunk at a party and had to be helped in a cab to get home. Instead of going to his 15th Street apartment, he ended up in Union Square where he met 22-year-old Jeromie Cancel. The two discussed doing drugs and went to Pravia’s home, Cancel told police. Soon after, Pravia fell asleep. Cancel then killed the teenager by strangling him with a cord and shoving plastic down his throat before stealing his phone, which he sold, and laptop.

The next day, Cancel bragged about the murder to his father, who called the police (Cancel had also allegedly stolen his father’s PlayStation). Cancel confessed to the killing, according to the Daily News, even bragging to police that he watched the horror movie “Saw” before leaving his victim’s apartment.

When asked by a crowd of reporters why he killed Pravia, Cancel, with short-cropped hair and trendy wire-framed glasses, gloated, “Because I wanted to. You gotta problem with that?” Later, he was ordered to go on medication after he started spinning around and acting bizarre during questioning.

When details of the Pravia murder were breaking Monday morning, all that was known then was that Pravia was a teenage college student at Pace and had been found dead by his roommate; his Facebook photo was included in the reports. Already, bloggers and online commentators speculated that Pravia was gay and that he was the victim of a sexual hookup that had gone very wrong—after all, he was cute and he lived in Chelsea. What else could it be? Right?

Wrong. For example, Cancel denied any sexual activity and police reports confirm that. That’s why, given the facts so far, the case is not considered a LGBT hate crime—it wasn’t motivated by the victim’s real or perceived sexuality or gender identity. The official term for the Cancel/Pravia case is a “crime of opportunity.”

People—and the media—begin to piece together information in ways that harm the community, Fountain says. Comments such as “He was young,” “He was using drugs,” “He was gay,” “He was a partier” come together to create a stereotype of a person who deserved to be harmed or should have known better.

In turn, that leads people to stop being cautious in their own minds because they think, “I’d never do that so I’m not going to be harmed.” They miss a lot of facts because they stop looking.

“Judging [Pravia] or dismissing him doesn’t lead to your safety or the safety of people around you,” Fountain said. “People do bad things all the time. People who seek to harm other people are out there. We ask people to be aware, not to the point of paranoia, but to the point of being safe.”

AVP’s website, avp.org, includes safety tips on dating and meeting people online (see our list of those hints at the end of this story).

Noting what she considers “a harmful stigma against the ways many gay men choose to find sexual partners,” Fontain said that AVP is “not here to wag fingers and police people’s behaviors. We’re here to say, ‘If you choose to do this, here are some safety tips.’

“That’s what we want to encourage,” she said. “And to encourage people to take care of one another. As a community to look after one another. Talk about this, talk to one another. Find information.”


Safety Tips for Dating
and Online Encounters

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects offers these tips for online and safe dating. Download additional ideas and specifics about these tips at avp.org.

• Trust your gut.

• Get a picture (face shot) and phone number before you meet the person.

• If you decide to meet someone in person, meet in public.

•If you host:

Leave valuables (wallet, money, checkbook, jewelry, or things that look expensive or have sentimental value) out of sight.
Keep items that could be used as a weapon out of sight (kitchen knives, bats, etc).
Stay awake the entire time the person is there—no sleep‐overs the first time!

It is better not to host if you don’t live in a secure building. Remember, from that point on, the person you meet knows where you live.
Keep your cell phone charged and close to you at all times. But remember: The police or your friend can’t be there immediately so have a backup safety plan.

• If they host:

Tell at least one person the address where you will be and for how long.
Bring your phone and keep it charged.
Do not accept drinks (even water) at the person’s home unless you observe the drink being poured. Date rape drugs have no odor or flavor even in water.
If somebody else is at the home when you get there, exit.
If at any point you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, leave immediately. You don’t have to give an explanation. Be assertive without being aggressive.

• If you meet in public:

A well‐lit and crowded place is best. It gives you the chance to see how your date interacts in public.
If you would rather meet at a bar or a club, remember to get your own drinks. If you drink at all, don’t drink past a mild buzz. Assailants often perceive intoxication as a vulnerability.
If someone insists on getting your drink for you, tell him or her no. If the date still doesn’t respect that, don’t take the drink and don’t socialize with the person.
Another advantage of meeting in public is that you can bring friends with you. They can watch your back.
If you decide to leave with the person, get the address of where you’ll be and the date’s phone number. Introduce him or her to the bartender, friends or acquaintances before leaving.

The Anti-Violence Project 24-hour bilingual hotline is 212-714-1141.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Deal Possible in Gay Man's 2007 Murder

Source: Gay City News

The Brooklyn district attorney may consider a plea deal in the 2007 killing of Roberto Duncanson, a 20-year-old gay man.

"We're exploring the possibility of a disposition," said Benjamin Heinrich, the attorney for Omar Willock, the 18-year-old Brooklyn man charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one as a hate crime, in the Duncanson murder.

Heinrich spoke at a September 2 hearing in the case. The trial was supposed to start on that date, but with Neil J. Firetog, the judge in the case, still on vacation, that date was moved to October 6 .

Allegedly, Duncanson encountered Willock on the street in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section just before 1 a.m. on May 12. Willock, who used anti-gay slurs, accused Duncanson of looking at him. When Duncanson again passed by, a fight ensued and Willock stabbed Duncanson four times in the back, according to a 2007 statement from the district attorney. Duncanson died roughly one hour later at Kings County Hospital.

Willock was arrested five days later, but he surrendered to police with a lawyer and never gave a statement. The knife was never recovered.

The district attorney has two witnesses to the killing, only one of whom identified Willock, but that one witness knew Willock for roughly a year, making for a more reliable identification. Willock has a twin and presumably the witness can tell them apart.

Howard Jackson, the prosecutor in the case, said his office had not made any offers to Willock nor would it, but they would consider any offer that the defense made. Jackson said the defense had not come to him with a possible sentence or charge that Willock would plead to.

Heinrich did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Karen Palmer, Duncanson's mother, who has attended every pre-trial hearing in the case along with a large group of the victim's friends, said she was "neutral" about a deal.

Such a deal would have to be approved by Charles J. Hynes, the district attorney, who said in 2006 interview with Gay City News "I don't plea bar gain bias-related crimes. I don't do that... We're not going to tolerate attacks on members of this community."

Hynes made that comment when discussing the 2006 murder of Michael J. Sandy, a 29-year-old gay man. In that case, Hynes made a deal with one defendant to secure his testimony against the other three and, following the conviction of two defendants on manslaughter and robbery charges, his office made a deal with the fourth.

"Considering the spike in numbers with hate violence against LGBT communities, especially this past summer, we would hope the judge would send a strong and clear message that violence against the LGBT communities would not be tolerated," said Kim Fountain, deputy director at the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP).