June 15, 2011 at 9:16 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
‘Persons of interest’ ID’d in attack on Blade reporter

Rehoboth Beach, Del., police have identified one or more “persons of interest” in connection with the May 29 assault against Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson on a residential street by two or three unidentified young men, according to the town’s police chief, Keith Banks.

“We are moving forward with the investigation and working every possible avenue in this case,” Banks said on Tuesday.

Banks said the lead investigator in the case has interviewed “several people” but declined to say whether the persons of interest were interviewed and whether they might become suspects.

“I can’t comment any further other than to say there’s a little bit of movement but not as much as we would like,” he said. “The case is under active investigation.”

Johnson suffered a broken nose in the assault and had his cell phone stolen. He said two or three young males jumped him from behind and grabbed his cell phone after hitting him with their fists in the head and body, knocking him to the ground. He had been walking alone from the house where he was staying to meet friends at the Blue Moon gay bar.

He said the assailants did not attempt to take his wallet before fleeing the scene on foot. According to Johnson, the attackers did not speak during the incident, a development that prompted Banks to say there was no immediate evidence that the incident was a hate crime based on Johnson’s sexual orientation.

Johnson described the attackers as black males, with one appearing in his late teens or early 20s with a shaved head, a medium build and wearing a red sweatshirt with a hood.

Johnson was treated and released on the night of the incident at Beebe Memorial Hospital in nearby Lewes, Del.

Banks said the incident was listed as a robbery by force and violence. He said anyone with information about the case should contact lead Det. William Sullivan at 302-227-2577.

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

  • Please bear with me, I’m trying to understand. Many people, including gay people, are violently attacked for no apparent reason every day and it’s not reported in the local media. There is no reported indication that this event was committed based on the victim’s sexual orientation. Hence, why is this event a news story – just to update us on the status of the case since the victim is a Blade employee? Please explain. Thanks.

  • It’s newsworthy because Rehoboth is a very quiet town where such things simply do not happen. The story shows that the Rehoboth police are taking the incident seriously. All of us who vacation in Rehoboth are following this with great interest.

  • It’s not just the fact that the victim happens to be a reporter of the Blade (and a good one I might add). It is newsworthy because so many in our community from DC to Baltimore to Philly and places beyond flock to Rehoboth. That the Blade alerts us to these events so others may be aware of the dangers that are still out there is an outstanding example of serving the public. While it may not be deemed a hate crime technically, I have no doubt Chris was attacked because he was gay (or perceived to be) given that no money was taken– just the phone that would have been used to report the attack immediately. I hope Chris is doing better.

  • @Laurelboy2- in Rehoboth and sussex county all such attacks appear regularly in the newspapers when they are reported and followed up. They should all appear in the newspaper and instead of questioning why this one appears it would be better to ask why they don’t all appear. The Blade is read and distributed in Rehoboth so it is important for those who live there to know such an attack occured and that is for both gay and straight residents. The more we press our police departments to follow up on every crime the safer we will all be and when crimes become public the police tend to follow up on them. That is why you often see families of crime victims go the press to speak out.

  • My friend’s son (straight/married), his friend and friend’s girlfriend were attacked two weeks ago in a similar incident. They were attacked from behind, beaten with shovels, robbed and left unconscious. I hope they catch these animals and return justice by beating THEM with shovels.

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