February 1, 2010 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay murder victim knew juvenile arrested in his slaying

A 17-year-old D.C. male charged with the Jan. 10 shooting death of gay Maryland resident Gordon Rivers told police he knew the man and invited him to the location where Rivers was shot during an alleged botched robbery, according to a police affidavit.

William X. Wren was ordered held without bond during a Jan. 29 arraignment in D.C. Superior Court on charges of first- and second-degree murder and assault with intent to kill while armed, all in connection with River’s death.

Rivers, 47, a resident of Brandywine, Md., was found laying in the street suffering multiple gunshot wounds in front of 2641 Naylor Road, S.E., at about 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 10 by an off-duty police officer, says the affidavit.

It says police arrested Wren after he voluntarily appeared at the police homicide squad office for an interview Jan. 28. It says Wren told detectives he knew Rivers and contacted him by phone to invite him for a visit near where Wren lived in Southeast D.C.

According to the affidavit, Wren allegedly shot Rivers inside Rivers’ car during a robbery shortly after Rivers drove to the area in his black Cadillac on Jan. 10.

The U.S. Attorney’s office charged Wren as an adult, resulting in the release of the three-page arrest affidavit that details the case against him. But the affidavit does not disclose whether Rivers’ sexual orientation was a factor in his murder or the nature of his relationship with Wren.

Benjamin Friedman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said the investigation into the murder is continuing and neither his office nor the police could provide additional details, such as how Rivers and Wren met each other.

People who knew Rivers told DC Agenda he was a regular customer of the D.C. gay bar Bachelor’s Mill, located near the Washington Navy Yard, which is about five miles from the area where he was killed.

One Bachelor’s Mill customer who knew Rivers said Rivers never mentioned having any ties to the Naylor Road, S.E., neighborhood where he was shot. However, the customer noted that the Naylor Road area is along the route Rivers would take to drive from his home in Brandywine to Bachelor’s Mill.

A law enforcement source said an area near where Rivers was shot has been known as a clandestine cruising spot for men seeking other men for sex.

The affidavit says the off-duty officer heard gunshots and observed “muzzle flash” from within a black Cadillac parked on the 2600 block of Naylor Road. It says the officer saw a youth, later identified as Wren, leave the car via the front passenger door while carrying a handgun. The youth then fled the scene.

“The officer observed a male subject, who was later identified as 47-year-old Gordon Rivers, exit the driver’s side door and walk to the rear of the vehicle where he collapsed,” says the affidavit.

Police said Rivers was taken by ambulance to Washington Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

According to the affidavit, Wren voluntarily appeared at the police homicide office Jan. 28 and agreed to be interviewed about the case.

It says his appearance followed an earlier interview by homicide detectives of a witness who told detectives he knew Wren. The witness told detectives he overheard Wren and another man, whom police identify only as an “accomplice,” talk about robbing someone, says the affidavit.

It says the witness told police he saw the accomplice hand Wren a pistol moments before Wren entered Rivers’ car. According to the affidavit, the witness said he heard the sound of multiple gunshots coming from inside the car a short time later. It says the witness then saw Wren exit Rivers’ Cadillac and flee the scene.

The affidavit says that in the days following the murder, the witness reported hearing Wren say he shot Rivers “during the botched robbery attempt.”

The affidavit says Wren told detectives during his Jan. 28 police interview that he lives with the mother of his children on the 2400 block of S St., S.E., which is close to where he arranged to meet Rivers on the day of the shooting. He arranged to meet Rivers “for the purpose of robbing him of money and marijuana,” the affidavit says he told the detectives.

It says Wren told detectives he entered Rivers’ car unarmed with the intent that his accomplice would enter the car a short time later with a gun, and the two would carry out the robbery. But according to Wren, Rivers pulled out his own gun when Wren told him “not to move,” and the two men got into a struggle over the gun.

“William Wren said that he took the decedent’s gun,” says the affidavit. “Then, he and the decedent fought over the gun. During the struggle, the gun went off and the decedent was shot multiple times. William Wren said that he exited the vehicle while still in possession of the decedent’s gun and fled on foot.”

During the arraignment, defense attorney Ronald Horton challenged the credibility of the witness who told police Wren was in possession of a gun as he entered Rivers’ car. Horton asked Judge-Magistrate Karen Howze to approve a motion to dismiss the case due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Tonolli, the prosecutor in the case, disputed Horton’s assessment. He said the evidence was strong and overwhelming and the witness was reliable — and that Wren’s claim that the gun belonged to Rivers lacked credibility.

Howze denied the defense motion, saying she found “substantial probability that Mr. Wren did commit this offense.” She denied a second motion by Horton that Wren be released into the custody of his mother, ordering that Wren be held without bond.

She set a preliminary hearing for Feb. 10, where Judge Herbert Dixon would take over the case and determine whether Wren was eligible for release while awaiting trial.

“The motive sounds like robbery, and it’s unclear if the victim was killed because he was gay,” said Dale Edwin Sanders, a gay attorney who practices criminal law in D.C.

“One unanswered question is whether the police found any pot in the car or in the possession of the victim,” Sanders said. “If there was no pot, the police would have to look closer at a possible gay angle. What brought them together in the car at that time?”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

8 Comments
  • Why is it so important that Mr. Rivers be known as a “gay” man? Everyone knows someone whose gay and it’s not a big deal. My issue is that he had a right to privacy in his personal preference and life. He was a man and a very good friend who is now deceased. If you’re gay, show some class and some respect!

  • I have know Gordan for over 13 years, and I im sure he would turn over in him grave if he was aware that his name was spattered in the press as an Quote/Unquote openly gay male… Gordan was very much aware of who he was and the life style he lived… For pete sake, have some humility, if not for him, atleast for his family and friend!!! RIP my brother…

    • im sorry that your brother is dead. im sorry that my fiance killed him. but ask yourself if someone pulled a gun out on you what would u have done to fight for your life. im writing to u because i dont want you to hate him. i dont want anyone to look bad on william he did not mean to and im saying this because i know

  • I am sadden that some one that didn’t take the time to know “Gordon”, would consider any bodily harm to him. Gordon would have probably given him money if he really needed it, without any hesitation. Gordon was a very respected and private person. His career was rewarding and he had great respect among his co-workers. It’s really sad that now his name is being tarnished by some low life guy, who need a real job to committ to his obligation as a “so called daddy”. I hope and pray that justice is served in a court of law. My Gordon, you were like the son I never had. I never slept until a suspect was apprehended… May you Rest in Peace, my sweet angel…Pls. shoot me an email when any trial information becomes available, I do plan to attend (rain, snow, sleet or shine). Your cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated.

    • This story should be primarily based on the tragic death of Gordon Rivers, but instead you want to focus on his sexual orientation. Shame! How can you expect people to treat gay individuals with the same courtesies as heterosexuals when you blast the “gay” label often? Does it change the outcome for Gordon Rivers? Does his being gay change the fact that he was targeted to die by some individuals that obviously wanted a quick payout?! I pray that these individuals find solace in “God’s Love”.

  • I have been with william wren for four years we have two sons together. i know him and what kind of person he is. Im not the type of person who would just lie to protect anyone if someone is wrong i would be the first to point them out. as far as the witness, the witness did indeed lie. william testimony was completely true, im saying this becuase i know for a fact. he admits everything to me. he did not meant to kill mr rivers. the arguement they had in his car went for a wrong turn and he tried to end williams life. william did what he had to he fought for his life. should he be wrong for doing that? should he be the one dead? so everyone out there just ask yourself what would you have done…

    • MedullaOblungata

      @Breanna Wren:
      Mrs Wren, The fact still remains that your “MAN” plotted and premeditated a robbery that eventually ended in a death. Obviously he had U fooled into thinking he was nice guy just like he probably did to Gordon. Your common sense should ask you a few questions..>>
      #1. What is your MAN at a KNOWN gay pick up spot in the wee hours of the morning?
      #2. If he tells you everything, then he must have told you he was going to rob someone, How do you rob someone without a gun or weapon?
      #3 If someone else was supposed to enter the car with a gun, why was said accomplice not there when your “MAN” was fighting with Gordan?
      #4. If Gordan and your man fought for the gun, why was he shot multiple times?

      Personally I think your “MAN” should be given the death penalty and you should be charged as an accessory before and after the fact of murder for simply admitting “he tells me everything” so did he tell you before or after he committed robbery and murder?

      Please raise your kids better then you and your “MAN were. I have so much more I could say but I digress.

      GOD Bless!!
      GOD Bless!

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