Gay Hate Crimes: Truth or Hysteria, Part III

Here’s the next round.  So far, the first twelve came up with exactly one hate crime perpetrated by a person claiming to be working on behalf of the Christian God.  Even though we all know my intentions are only the best, I’m likely about to anger the gods of the gay community with some of the conclusions I come to.

Danny Overstreet–On September 22, 2000, Ronald Gay walked into the Backstreet Cafe in Roanoke, Virginia.  He sat down and ordered a beer before pulling a 9mm handgun and opened fire, wounding six and killing one–Overstreet.  Before going, Gay had asked a waitress in a small diner where the nearest gay bar was, then pulled his trench coat back to reveal the gun and said he wanted to “waste some gays.”  The waitress called police before the shooting even started; consequently, it took a very short period of time for police to find him afterward.  Gay, a former Marine, had a long history of violence–his ex-wife had a restraining order against him.  While awaiting indictment, he wrote a nearly indecipherable letter to the Roanoke Times in which he talked about “killing and burning” gay men to slow the spread of AIDS and called himself “a Christian soldier working for my Lord.”  While Gay had never before made such statements, he did show a propensity for odd religious beliefs.  His statements to the media about his motive were also made before indictment and have never been recanted.  Verdict: TRUTH.

Sakia Gunn–this one is likely to garner me the most hate mail.  I hadn’t really studied the facts of this case until now and had merely accepted what I’d been told.  On May 11, 2003, Gunn was waiting for a bus with friends after spending the evening in Greenwhich Village.  Two men pulled up in a station wagon and propositioned the group of girls but were rebuffed when all of the girls told the men they were lesbians.  The men got out and argued; invariably, a fight broke out, and when Gunn fought back Richard McCullough stabbed her in the chest.  McCullough later turned himself in, saying he hadn’t meant to kill her.  It is notable that the fight began over a sexual proposition, not because the girls were lesbians.  McCullough denied that he wished to harm the girls over their orientation.  Moreover, he denied a revulsion to lesbians.  The fact that he turned himself in, plead guilty, and maintained that murder was never his intent speaks volumes.  This was not a hate crime, and religion NEVER came up.  Verdict: HYSTERIA.

Daniel Fetty–On October 2, 2004, Martin Baxter, Matthew Ferman and James Trent, Jr. were at the Canal Pub with 38-year-old Fetty for drinks.  Fetty was deaf and gay.  At some point while Fetty was buying drinks, Ferman noticed his cigarettes missing and began to lose his temper.  He accused Fetty, who was homeless after an apartment fire, of taking both the cigarettes and some cash that he’d stuffed into the cellophane.  The three men led Fetty outside, where they beat him with bottles, bricks and wooden beams before stripping him and dumping him into a trash bin.  They took Fetty’s only valuable posessions and money from his car and ran when the police arrived.  Fetty died in the hospital the next day.  Prosecutor Rob Junk added hate crime charges after the original indictment, alleging that the fact that Fetty was found nude pointed to his sexual orientation as a motivation.  This was the only evidence claimed to make this a hate crime; Trent, who plead guilty and testified, said that the whole episode was over the cigarettes, as did the few witnesses who testified.  I do not believe this to be a hate crime, either, and religion again never came up.  Verdict: HYSTERIA.

Guin “Richie” Phillips–On June 17, 2003, Phillips went to lunch with friend Joshua Cottrell in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.  It was the last time he was seen alive.  On June 25, two fishermen found his body stuffed into a suitcase in Rough River, three days after his abandoned truck was found in Indiana.  On June 27 Cottrell was arrested for the murder.  Despite claims to the contrary, Cottrell’s family and friends were stunned by the murder; at trial, they testified that they’d never heard him use derogatory language about Phillips’ orientation.  Cottrell had stated that he would “cold cock” Phillips if he ever made a pass at him, but mutual acquaintances all said that Phillips was never aggressive and Cottrell harbored no hate.  The two seemed to get along well.  Cottrell claimed at trial that Phillips attempted to rape him–convenient, considering Kentucky’s law allowing a victim to use deadly force to escape forcible sexual intercourse (the “stand your ground” law).  While it is possible that Cottrell instigated the whole thing, I think if he killed Phillips for being gay there would have been far more evidence of his malice.  Our only real witness, though, is also the perpetrator.  Verdict: partial TRUTH, mostly HYSTERIA.

Glenn Kopitske–on August 2, 2002, Kopitske’s mother drove out to his house when she couldn’t reach him by phone and found him dead in his small, isolated home in Weyauwaga, Wisconsin (not far from Milwaukee).  He’d only been dead for two days but the heat and humidity had expedited his decomposition; it wasn’t until the Milwaukee pathologist turned the body over that his liquefied brain matter was leaking from a quarter-sized bullet hole in his skull.  The odd markings on his back and chest turned out to be stab wounds.  Kopitske had been murdered.  Yet when police combed through the victim’s home, there was no evidence–no hair, no blood, no sign of forced entry or a struggle, nothing.  They did, however, discover his keys missing and his back door locked, and his mother said he never locked the back door.  After extensive canvassing in town, a college freshman named Olivia Thoma finally came forward with a shocking revelation: Gary Hirte, the town hero, straight-A student, athlete extraordinaire and the town’s first Eagle Scout in 20 years, had been talking about committing the murder.  Chillingly enough, by the time she came forward police found that Hirte had been bragging about it to several people, including rivals on the football field.  What cemented it for them was that he told Thoma that he’d taken the keys.  He had also showed the blood-spattered knife he’d used to a friend.  Hirte told Thoma, on whom he had a crush, that he’d done it just to see if he could get away with it.  A neighbor then came forward and said that a few nights before the murder, he’d seen a car with square headlights and rectangular taillights shining a powerful spotlight on the house.  Hirte’s friend later admitted they’d gone “shining for deer” and hadn’t realized that it was a dry run to see what the neighborhood was like at night.  Hirte was arrested and indicted, and after days of incarceration and time with his lawyer, suddenly came the story that he’d concocted in his defense: he’d had a sexual encounter with Kopitske that night while drunk, and when he woke sober in his car, he went on a rampage and murdered Kopitske.  Hirte’s lawyer claims a forensic report suggests a sexual encounter took place, but the police report says there was no evidence of any such thing in Kopitske’s home or on his body.  Hirte’s story is the only thing anyone clings to in pointing to this as an anti-gay hate crime, and the evidence suggests Hirte is lying through his teeth.  An FBI profiler pointed to distinct signs that Hirte was a psychopath–he dated a girl 5 years his junior, hung out with an unpopular boy though he was the most popular guy in town, he killed small animals and bragged about it, and–most disturbing–he took Kopitske’s keys as a trophy, showing them off to people he bragged to about the murder.  Left unchecked, Hirte stood a good chance of becoming the next great serial killer.  On top of all of this, Kopitske’s parents said he was not gay and never would have taken anyone, let alone a high school student, to his home to have sex.  Hirte may claim until he dies that his story is legit, but the evidence profoundly says otherwise.  This was no hate crime; Hirte’s story is a front.  He certainly never claimed religion as his basis.  Verdict: HYSTERIA.

Jason Gage–on March 11, 2005, Gage went out with a few friends to the local gay bar, Kings & Queens, including friend Joseph Lawrence.  They later went to The Times Bar, retiring afterward to Gage’s apartment where Lawrence decided to wait for a ride because he was too drunk to drive.  The next morning, Gage began contacting friends in a panic, saying he’d gotten into a fight that had “gotten way out of hand.”  He asked if he should call police, because he didn’t know if Gage would press assault charges.  But on March 14, police found Gage dead in the apartment after he hadn’t shown up for work for three days and concerned friends called.  He’d died of severe head injuries and a stab wound with a piece of glass to the neck, though there were few signs of struggle outside of the bedroom.  Lawrence, for his part, had several gay friends and went to the gay bars with them; his fiancee told police that the fight never would have happened unless some sort of sexual advance was made AND Lawrence was very drunk.  There is actually no evidence whatsoever that Lawrence killed Gage simply for being gay, and religion was never used as an excuse.  Lawrence plead guilty and, possibly out of genuine remorse, waived all rights to appeal whatever sentence the judge might give him.  Verdict: HYSTERIA.

The Puzzles Lounge–this one is typically referred to simply as “the Boston gay bar attack” even though I starkly remember watching it on the news for several days.  On February 2, 2006, 18-year-old Jacob Robida walked into the Puzzles Lounge in Boston and ordered a drink with a fake ID.  He ordered the second drink and asked the bartender if he was in a gay bar, and the bartender confirmed it; after downing the second drink, Robida produced a hatchet and started attacking patrons.  When several wrestled him to the ground, he pulled a gun and started shooting.  He ran off, having seriously wounded four people.  Police raided his mother’s house and found Nazi regalia and anti-Semitic writings strewn about Robida’s bedroom.  On February 4, Gassville, Arkansas police officer Jim Sell pulled Robida’s 1999 green Pontiac over; Robida calmly talked to him for a few minutes before shooting and killing him, then taking off again.  Eighteen miles later, in Norfork, Robida engaged police in a gunfight.  He killed his companion, Jennifer Bailey, whose presence has never been explained, then was shot in the head by pursuing officers.  This was a hate crime; evidence showed that Robida had planned the attack for some time.  However, he never called himself a Christian, nor blamed his hatred on God.  Verdict: both TRUTH and HYSTERIA.

We’re up to TWO so far now–two out of nineteen.  Some of the crimes listed aren’t even hate crimes.  Let me say now that the fact that a crime victim is gay does not automatically mean they were targeted for their orientation.  Please, folks, research what you’re claiming before you try to use it to your benefit.

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2 thoughts on “Gay Hate Crimes: Truth or Hysteria, Part III

  1. One item of note – even these crimes that had elements of “Christian” fundamentalism or whatever in them were not perpetrated by someone under the direct auspices of a group that preaches hate and violence towards gays. They are all, to overuse a huge cliche, lone gunmen.

  2. I find it quite interesting that none of these people can even be remotely linked to men like Fred Phelps, who is the biggest true hatemonger we have in America today. Supposedly things like that instill hate in these lone gunmen. If they’re not even claiming hatred, though, how do we get from point A to point B?

    Frustrating.

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