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US govt issues travel alert to gays, others attending Sochi Olympics

State Dept warns Americans about terrorism, inadequate medical care, gay civil rights violations, crime in Russia.

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10
Jan
2014

How Vladimir Putin sent `Brand Russia` into the toilet

Vladimir Putin wanted the world to fear Russia, and it does. It fears the place is falling apart at the seams.

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31
Jan
2014

Md. man charged in stabbing outside D.C. gay bar

police, stabbing, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department

A Maryland man is charged in a stabbing that reportedly occurred outside Bachelor’s Mill. (Photo by Cliff; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

D.C. police on Tuesday charged a 22-year-old man with assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly stabbing another man on the street outside the Bachelor’s Mill, a gay bar at 1104 8th St., S.E. near the Washington Navy Yard.

A police statement says officers arrested Terrill Terry Jr. of La Plata, Md., on Tuesday, Feb. 4 after obtaining a D.C. Superior Court warrant that identified the weapon as a knife.

The statement says the incident began about 2:15 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, when officers responded to a call for help and discovered an adult male had been struck with a bottle at an establishment on the 1100 block of 8th St., S.E.

Although the statement doesn’t identify the establishment, a source familiar with the incident said the initial altercation took place inside the Bachelor’s Mill.

“The suspect fled the scene and engaged in a second altercation in the 1100 block of 7th St., S.E., where he assaulted a second adult male with a sharp item,” the statement says. “The suspect then fled the scene. Both victims received treatment at local hospitals for their injuries.”

Court records show Terry was being held without bond pending a preliminary hearing scheduled or 10:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7.

05
Feb
2014

Judge finds probable cause in Bachelor’s Mill stabbing

police, stabbing, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department

A Maryland man is charged in a stabbing that reportedly occurred outside Bachelor’s Mill. (Photo by Cliff; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled on Feb. 7 that prosecutors established probable cause that Terrill Terry Jr., 22, of La Plata, Md., committed an assault with intent to kill while armed outside the Capitol Hill gay bar Bachelor’s Mill five days earlier.

D.C. police arrested Terry on Feb. 4 for allegedly slashing a Bachelor’s Mill customer multiple times on the street one block from the bar following an altercation he allegedly started in the bar minutes earlier.

Judge John R. Johnson ordered Terry held without bond while he awaits trial during a Feb. 7 court hearing in which a D.C. police detective testified that jealousy may have been the motive behind Terry’s action.

An arrest affidavit prepared by Det. David Gargac says the incident began inside the Bachelor’s Mill at 1104 8th St., S.E., about 2:15 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, when Terry struck an acquaintance in the head with a beer bottle while the two men were on the dance floor.

Gargac testified that witnesses told police that Terry believed the acquaintance was making advances toward someone he described as his “husband” at a private party earlier that evening. The detective said several of the people at the party – including Terry and the acquaintance – went to the Bachelor’s Mill after leaving the party.

The affidavit says that when Terry struck the acquaintance with the bottle a scuffle broke out on the dance floor and bar employees escorted the acquaintance and Terry out of the club. According to the affidavit, bar security personnel and police officers out front did not respond to the acquaintance’s assertion that Terry assaulted him with the bottle, and the acquaintance and a friend walked away in one direction and Terry walked in the opposite direction.

But minutes later, according to the affidavit, Terry approached the acquaintance and charged toward him, prompting the acquaintance’s friend to block Terry’s path and urged him to back off. It was at that point that Terry slashed the friend at least six times with a sharp object that Det. Gargac said witnesses think may have been a box cutter, the affidavit says. The weapon has not been found.

Gargac testified that the friend suffered slash wounds to the neck, face, shoulder and wrist, among other places, and was bleeding “profusely” before an ambulance took him to Washington Hospital Center’s Med Start Unit, where he underwent emergency surgery.

He has since been released and is recovering from injuries that could have been fatal had they landed in a slightly different place, said Assistant U.S. Attorney James Petkun at the Feb. 7 court hearing.

The acquaintance spoke to the Blade on condition that he not be identified by name. He said the person Terry called his “husband” came on to him at the party and he politely declined that person’s overtures.

He said Terry expressed annoyance that he and Terry’s friend had a brief conversation at the party, but he never thought that interaction would prompt Terry to become violent when group left the party and arrived at the Bachelor’s Mill.

Webster Knight, Terry’s attorney, argued during the court hearing that the government presented insufficient evidence to show probable cause that Terry committed an assault with intent to kill. Knight did not disclose what, if any, explanation his client has for how the altercation started or whether or not Terry acknowledges hitting the acquaintance and slashing the acquaintance’s friend.

12
Feb
2014

Judge upholds murder charge in roommate stabbing case

1630 Fuller St., N.W., The Mozart, gay news, Washington Blade

1630 Fuller St., N.W. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Wednesday ruled that prosecutors demonstrated probable cause exists that David Jamal Wilson, 21, allegedly stabbed his 68-year-old roommate to death in the D.C. apartment they shared.

Police found Howard Venable dead in his apartment at the Mozart Apartments at 1630 Fuller St., N.W. on Feb. 2. The U.S. Attorney’s office charged Wilson with second degree murder while armed on Feb. 4 after D.C. police homicide detectives discovered he used credit cards he allegedly stole from Venable to withdraw more than $600 in cash from ATM machines in District Heights, Md.

During a Feb. 20 preliminary hearing, Judge Stuart Nash ruled that prosecutors provided sufficient evidence to show probable cause and “substantial probability” that Wilson murdered Venable. The ruling clears the case for trial, which is expected to take place later this year.

No mention was made during the hearing about how Venable and Wilson met or the nature of their relationship. Two sources told the Blade that the two were having an affair and that Venable was providing financial support for Wilson.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Holly Schick, the prosecutor in the case, pointed to an autopsy report showing that Venable was stabbed multiple times in the neck and torso and had “defensive” wounds on his hands and arms.

A police arrest affidavit says Wilson initially denied he was staying in the apartment and denied any role in the murder. It says he gave police several conflicting versions of how Venable was killed, including one version that Venable was stabbed by intruders who planned to rob him. The affidavit says Wilson acknowledged Venable had been stabbed before police publicly disclosed the killing involved a stabbing.

In another version, Wilson said he got into a fight with Venable inside the apartment and Venable retrieved a knife from the kitchen and the two struggled before Venable fell and stabbed himself, the affidavit says.

In his ruling, Nash said the autopsy report and other evidence shows the death could not have been caused by Venable accidently stabbing himself.

Defense attorney Jacqueline Cadman argued that police did not present any physical evidence linking Wilson to the murder. She said Wilson gave several versions of what may have happened during a four-hour interrogation session at the police homicide office.

“It is speculation,” she said. “There is no evidence whatsoever that links Mr. Wilson to Mr. Venable’s death.”

She urged Nash to release Wilson from jail while he awaits trial, saying he would not present a risk to the community. She noted that Wilson is married and has three small children, who rely on him for financial support.

Nash declined that request and ordered Wilson held until trial.

Court records show that Wilson’s wife obtained a civil protection order against him in July 2011 after accusing him of assaulting her and presenting what she believed was a threat to their children. Records show the Superior Court’s Domestic Violence Unit issued a stay away order prohibiting Wilson from returning to the home where he and his wife and children had been living.

At Wednesday’s court hearing on the murder charge, defense attorney Cadman said Wilson’s wife was in the courtroom to show her support for him and favored a ruling to allow Wilson’s release on bond.

Judge Nash scheduled a status hearing for May 10.

21
Feb
2013

Montgomery County police investigate anti-gay vandalism

Montgomery County Police Dept. photo via Facebook.

Montgomery County Police Dept. photo via Facebook.

Montgomery County police continue to investigate an incident of anti-gay vandalism against one of its cruisers.

The department said in a press release that officers responded to a report of vandalism on Melody Lane in Bethesda around 3:15 a.m. on Feb. 17. They found a vehicle with profanity and “images of male genitalia” that had been spray painted onto it.

The officers also found a swastika and anti-gay comments spray painted onto a Montgomery County Police Department K-9 vehicle.

The department said officers responded to two other vandalism incidents — including a landscaping rock that had been painted with a swastika — later on Feb. 17 on Wahly Drive.

A Montgomery County Police Department spokesperson told the Washington Blade earlier on Monday there is “no update at this time” on the investigation. The MCPD is offering up to a $2,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case.

26
Feb
2013

Gay Md. man faces charges in hit-and-run

A gay Annapolis man faces charges in connection with an alleged hit-and-run accident that left a D.C. woman dead.

Prosecutors contend Joel Bromwell struck Ruby Whitfield with his SUV on March 21 as she and two other people were walking across Florida Avenue at the intersection of 11th Street in Northeast D.C. after attending a meeting at New Samaritan Baptist Church. The police charging document alleges Bromwell’s vehicle dragged Whitfield for “approximately 86 feet before becoming dislodged from” it.

Bromwell reportedly told police officers who took him into custody that he had just left Cobalt before the incident. The police charging document says he told them he had two Captain Morgan rum and cokes “over a period of two hours.”

Bromwell, 32, faces charges that include intent to kill another and to inflict serious bodily injury on another with a conscious disregard of an extreme risk of death or serious bodily injury to another.

27
Mar
2013

Universal Gear store robbed

Universal Gear, gay news, Washington Blade

Universal Gear (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. men’s clothing store Universal Gear, which is gay owned, lost about $5,000 in merchandise on Saturday morning, March 23, in a snatch-and-grab robbery committed by two unidentified male suspects, according to store official Yemi Mengistu.

Mengistu said the incident at the upscale store at 1529 14th St., N.W., marked the fifth time it has been victimized by similar robberies since 2009. As it has since 2009, Universal Gear’s owner, David Franco, has posted on YouTube a video of the robbery in progress taken from the store’s surveillance cameras.

D.C. police have listed the incident as a robbery and assault, Mengistu told the Blade, because one of the two suspects assaulted her as she tried to stop them from leaving while they carried large quantities of clothes form the store’s racks.

Franco has urged police to assign more foot patrol officers to the 14th Street business district where Universal Gear is located as a means of deterring what he has called an ongoing series of robberies by brazen young men, some appearing to be teenagers, who have targeted his store.

Similar to the past incidents, the latest two suspects posed as customers browsing the store before grabbing merchandise and running out into a getaway car parked nearby.

The store is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any of the suspects involved in the robberies. Anyone with information about the latest or past incidents should call Universal Gear at 202-319-0136 and the D.C. police crime line at 202-727-9099.

27
Mar
2013

Fighting back against street harassment

Silent March for Victims of GLBT Violence, Columbia Heights, hate crimes, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of the community fighting back against anti-gay hate crimes in Columbia Heights on Mar. 20, 2012. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

By PATRICK McNEIL

It’s April and I’m glad the weather is tolerable. I love taking walks and I love spending time outside. It’s beautiful, but warmer temperatures unfortunately also mean more opportunities for street harassment.

It’s a blessing and a curse.

For women and LGBTQ individuals (and those perceived to be LGBTQ), street harassment is a systemic, year-long problem, but we’re reminded at this time every year, when we engage in public interaction with greater frequency, how large of a problem it is.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month and earlier this month was International Anti-Street Harassment Week, a week during which activists work to raise awareness about how serious of an issue street harassment is. The event began two years ago as one day, an initiative started by Stop Street Harassment founder Holly Kearl. For the past two years, hundreds of organizations from around the globe have participated in weeklong movements.

As a gay man living in one of the gayest cities in America (and the gayest state), I’ve been particularly interested in the public harassment of this community. While my master’s thesis covered only gay and bisexual men, I am part of the community and an ally to everyone in the community. I don’t want anyone to experience street harassment.

Unfortunately, we do. Recently, the New York Times published a piece about the unfair treatment of transgender individuals by police officers in New York. I shed a tear while reading the article, a cruel reminder that, if you’re in public and not cis gender, you’re likely to be harassed. For gay men and lesbians, too, public displays of femininity and masculinity that at least border on gender non-conforming result in verbal assaults. And sometimes it gets physical.

Earlier this month in Paris, a gay couple was brutally beaten for holding hands in public. And this isn’t uncommon. Couples in the LGBTQ community are constantly required to negotiate a desire for visibility while recognizing the very real dangers of being out in public. Couples are reminded all the time that their presence is unwanted in public spaces. It’s a great source of stress and something that’s always on our minds, coupled or alone. In fact, according to my own research, about 71 percent of gay and bisexual men constantly assess their surroundings when navigating public spaces.

And we’re reminded in examples like these that our struggles are unique. When a heterosexual woman is accompanied by her partner, her chances of being harassed go down. For LGBTQ individuals the opposite happens. I’ve been there. I’ve been harassed on the street and on the Metro for holding hands with a guy. It’s not news to anyone that it happens, but it does happen with alarming frequency.

The public harassment of LGBTQ individuals is also unfortunate because of how different everyone’s identity development looks. I didn’t even come out to myself until college, but I was certainly bullied growing up for being gay. I felt social pressures and I felt uncomfortable. When you’re internally reconciling a queer identity and simultaneously being harassed because of the identity you refuse to accept, life is not easy, and it can stall the coming out process. One of my research participants, even though he was out to himself, delayed his coming out because he knew his small-town Iowa peers would adversely react. People shouldn’t have to hide their identities because they fear public retribution.

And really, I can’t say that I experience street harassment every day, as I know many women and many other LGBTQ individuals can. I don’t have to experience it to feel its effects, because I am always afraid. I’m afraid because it’s possible, because it’s happened before and will happen again, and because we live in a society where it’s unfortunately normal and expected.

These problems won’t be fixed in a week of activism and we’re likely not to even make a dent. But we have to start somewhere. Stop Street Harassment, regional Hollaback organizations, and others work year-round to combat the public harassment of women and LGBTQ folks, and they need our help.

If you’re harassed, share your story. The more of us who speak out, the more attention it will get. It’s about collectively amplifying each other’s voices, about standing in solidarity and saying that this isn’t OK. It’s about human rights and creating social spaces where all humans are free from this form of public harassment.

Patrick McNeil is a D.C.-based writer. Reach him at patrickryne@gmail.com.

25
Apr
2013

Two arrested in anti-gay assault outside Crew Club

the Crew Club, gay news, Washington Blade

A male victim says he was beaten outside the Crew Club last week. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. police on April 25 arrested two men for allegedly assaulting and robbing a Silver Spring man about 1 a.m. that day as the man stood outside the Crew Club, a gay gym and health club at 1321 14th St., N.W.

According to a police report, the two arrested men were among three young males who allegedly began striking the victim “with closed fists while calling him a homophobic slur in Spanish.”

The victim, Daryll “Dario” Flammer told NBC 4 TV News in an on-camera interview on the day of the incident that he was smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk when he was “beaten, knocked out and robbed.”

The police report, which lists the incident as a possible anti-gay hate crime, says Flammer told police officers responding to the scene that the attackers stole his iPad, which police estimate has a value of $800.

Flammer “states that he temporarily lost consciousness and noticed the listed property missing when he regained consciousness. No other property was removed from his person,” the report says. It says an ambulance was called to the scene but Flammer declined treatment.

According to the police report, among the officers responding to the scene was an affiliate member of the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump identified the men arrested as Gustavo Velasquez, 24, and Ciriaco Oxlaj, 26, both residents of Northwest D.C.  Court records show the U.S. Attorney’s office charged the men with a single count of felony robbery and did not list the incident as a hate crime.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has said in the past that it prefers to put off making a decision on whether to list assaults and other crimes as hate crimes until the cases are presented before a grand jury.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Karen Howze released Velasquez and Oxalaj on their own recognizance at an April 25 presentment hearing pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 14, court records show. The records show that Howze granted the release on the condition that the two men stay away from Flammer and stay away from the section of 14th Street, N.W. between Massachusetts Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue within which the Crew Club is located.

“Initially, I felt a bump on my head, a hard bump, and that knocked me to the ground,” Flammer told NBC 4 News, which was the first media outlet to report the incident.

“For a couple of seconds I was disoriented, not conscious, and then another individual took my tie and started pulling on me…and I couldn’t breathe, and he literally took the tie and ripped it off my neck,” he told NBC 4 News.

29
Apr
2013