December 9, 2015 at 11:03 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay couple beaten, robbed on Metro by youth gang
Metro, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo public domain)

A gay man said he and his partner were beaten and robbed on a Green Line Metro train shortly after 1 a.m. on Nov. 22 by as many as a dozen or more teenagers during a harrowing ride in which the train conductor ignored their pleas over an emergency call box to stop the train and call police.

Gaithersburg, Md., resident Calvin Lawrence, 48, and his partner Joseph Cowart, 43, feared for their lives as the youths menaced them and other passengers while the train conductor continued to operate the train “as if nothing had happened” for at least four stops between the Fort Totten and Shaw-Howard University stations, Lawrence said.

Although the train stopped at each of the stations, Lawrence said the conductor quickly closed the doors and continued moving the train to the next station instead of waiting for police to arrive as Lawrence said he urged the conductor to do over the emergency intercom system.

Meanwhile, at least one of the male attackers called Cowart a “faggot” while kicking him in the head and chest after several of the attackers knocked him to the floor, according to Lawrence, who contacted the Blade about the incident last week.

Joseph Howard (Photo courtesy of Calvin Lawrence)

Joseph Cowart (Photo courtesy of Calvin Lawrence)

Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel said the case is being actively investigated by the Metro Transit Police Department.

“MTPD officers stopped multiple individuals matching the description of the suspects that night,” Stessel told the Blade in an email. “However, none could be positively identified by the victims,” he said.

“MTPD detectives continue to review hours of video footage from stations up and down the Green Line to identify potential suspects,” Stessel said. “These images will be developed into a photo spread and presented to the victims to see if any suspect(s) can be positively identified.”

Lawrence disputes Stessel’s claim that none of the victims could identify any of the suspects stopped by police.

“They showed me one girl and one guy and I couldn’t I.D. them,” he said. “But Joey did I.D. the girl that hit him.”

Stessel released to the Blade a redacted version of the Metro Transit Police report of the incident. The report lists the incident as a “robbery force and violence.” It specifically says the incident was not a hate crime.

Similar to Lawrence’s account to the Blade, the report says the incident started when “a group of disorderly juveniles” were on the train and that one of them, listed as Suspect 1, robbed a 14-year-old boy, identified only as Victim 1, of his iPhone.

The report says Victim 2, whom Lawrence identifies as his partner Joseph Cowart, attempted to stop Suspect 1 from targeting the 14-year old, prompting Suspect 1 to “proceed to punch and kick” Cowart “about the right temple, both knees, right shin, and left ribs causing abrasions.”

As Lawrence tells it, Suspect 1 is a teenage girl who he observed a few minutes earlier walking up and down the train car acting suspiciously. He said the girl attacked the 14-year-old boy shortly after Cowart got up to look at a Metro map and was standing near where the attack occurred.

“The next thing I know I hear Joey go, hey, stop that,” Lawrence told the Blade. “Well that girl and six other youth – they had beaten up the kid and took his tennis shoes. So Joseph went to the call box, the emergency call box…to let the driver know, hey, there are people getting jumped by a mob of teenagers.”

Assuming the train conductor would keep the train in place at the next station while calling police, Lawrence said he signaled Cowart to meet him at the train door to make a quick exit and call for help.

But by the time he reached the train door he saw that the girl who had attacked the 14-year-old boy had grabbed Cowart by his sweatshirt.

“By the time I got to him the girl had pounded him in the head,” he said. “And then all of a sudden out of nowhere 12 teenagers had him down on the ground kicking him in the head, stomping him in the chest,” Lawrence recounted. “I threw myself into the middle of it,” he said, adding, “I tried to get him up and they stole his iPad and iPhone and all of that.”

Lawrence said he was especially concerned because Cowart had suffered a stroke 10 years ago due to a ruptured blood vessel in the left side of his brain near where the attackers were hitting him in the head.

In the midst of the commotion he managed to pull Cowart, who was bleeding, away from the attackers and joined other passengers in fleeing into another train car, Lawrence said. To his and Cowart’s dismay, he said the train conductor continued to operate the train, stopping briefly at the next few stations and continuing along the Green Line route.

Lawrence said he and Cowart stepped into the door and looked into the station each time the train stopped, but were afraid to get off because the stations appeared deserted and they feared the attackers – who could be seen in the next train car – might come after them.

It was not until the train reached the Shaw-Howard University Station that he saw a Metro employee sweeping the floor next to the escalators that he shouted for help. This time the train remained stopped and within minutes Metro Police officers arrived on the scene, Lawrence said.

He said police immediately called for an ambulance, which took Cowart to nearby Howard University Hospital, according to the police report.

“The call to summon police came from the train operator,” said Stessel, who answered “no” when asked if the train operator was being investigated for acting improperly by not stopping the train sooner.

Lawrence said he was troubled when told by the Blade that the Metro Police report doesn’t list the incident as a hate crime.

“They were making fun of him before they fully came up because his right side – he doesn’t have full use of it,” said Lawrence in describing the effects of Cowart’s stroke.

“Sometimes his hands sit in a certain way,” Lawrence said. “And the kids were walking by doing that gay fag thing. And when the guy was kicking him he was calling him fag.”

Stessel said police may not have listed the case as a hate crime because Cowart wasn’t the original target of the attackers.

“In this case, the original crime is the robbery of Victim 1,” he said. “Victim 2 [Cowart] was not the target of the robbery, and he was assaulted by the suspect only after attempting to come to the aid of Victim 1, who was not known to him,” Stessel said.

“A bias motivation can be added by prosecutors when the case is papered if the evidence will support it,” Stessel continued in his email to the Blade. “This remains an open and active investigation.”

He noted that Metro Police listed the 2014 stabbing of a teenage transgender woman on a Metro train as a hate crime. In that case, the victim and her friends reported that a suspect who was arrested on the scene shouted anti-trans slurs at the victim immediately before stabbing her. The victim was treated for non-life threatening wounds.

Metro Transit Police on Wednesday night released these photos of someone they said is a person of interest in the case of the assault and robbery of a gay male couple on a Green Line Metro train about 1:15 a.m. on Nov. 22 somewhere between the West Hyattsville and Shaw-Howard University stations. Anyone with information about this person should call Metro police at 202-962-2121.

Metro Transit Police on Wednesday night released these photos of someone they said is a person of interest in the case of the assault and robbery of a gay male couple on a Green Line Metro train about 1:15 a.m. on Nov. 22 somewhere between the West Hyattsville and Shaw-Howard University stations. Anyone with information about this person should call Metro police at 202-962-2121.

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

28 Comments
  • Amish youts, no doubt…

  • Stay off the green line after dark….and between sunrise and sunset.

  • metro sucking as usual.

  • What color were the assailants? I think I know…

    • I hope readers understand this was a racial hate crime as well.

      • They were Black and Dylan Roof was White so what?

      • Meaning that gay men are not victims of homophobic slurs and assaults from heterosexual white men?

        In my experience, gay bashing has often been more prevalent from White men than people of color. I’m not denying that some non-white heterosexual people are very homophobic, I’ve experience that, too, but let’s not ignore the reality that homophobic violence has no specific racial or gender profile.

        Most heterosexual white men I’ve encountered over the years that were aware of me being gay but didn’t know me reacted either with hatred with threatening body language and dirty looks or laughter as if I was a joke and patronizing as if I was a child. Others won’t even give me eye contact.

        • The “gang” gay bashing is more typical of these black kids. “White” attacks are usually some jackass and maybe a friend hurling epithets and then maybe resorting to violence. These gang attacks, on the other hand, are fueled by racial differences as well as homophobia: the attackers get off because they are all of the same race and their victims are of a different one. In the minds of the attackers, they see it as a bonding moment, with some joining in even though they probably wouldn’t otherwise.

          • So you’re saying Herero white guys wouldn’t likely go out on a specific gay bashing binge and rarely would be violent if they crossed paths wth gay men? They are just being jerks or bullies. Something like Matt shepherd was a rare exception. Harvey milk being shot by a Herero white guy, too. Damn twinkles made him do it. Wasn’t that gay sailor murdered before DADT was lifted killed by a white guy?

            So would these non-white gay bashing gangs give a free pass to non-white gays while only targeting gay “white” men?

          • Not in a gang and probably not in an urban setting – which is where a lot of gays live since the hinterlands are often not gay-friendly. Look at the gay-bashing stats.

          • So white frat boys or suburbanites can’t drive into town with their friends looking to bash gays? Especially after leaving a bar or party drunk?

            I grew up in a city and it seems to me it was always the white boys that went out of their way to find gays to humiliate or harass them or barrage them with slurs. I still get dirty looks from mainly white guys on the street whenever I check them out.

            As for urban settings, many cities are becoming gentrified pushing out the poor and minorities including gays….forcing them to move into the suburbs to find more affordable housing.

          • The assailant (that was “of interest”) was black, she focused her bashing on the white half of the gay couple. Check out that video of two black girls beating up a lighter skinned mixed girl on the LA subway. And how many times have you heard of black kids acting up on the DC subway?

          • I never denied that the assailant was non-white or that white people are not victims of racism, too. I’ve seen it first hand. Let’s not forget that some gay people are also racist.

            However, you are fixated on generalizing that gang violence is a non-white thing usually perpetrated by non-whites while refusing to acknowledge the fact that gay bashing has been perpetrated also by both white gangs and individuals all over the world! I’ve given you specific historical and contemporary examples; yet go back to your specious argument that it’s non-whites only behind the violence.

            DC is not the only place where gay people live or where they have experienced violence.

            Most kids act up in the subway or anyplace in general due to their immaturity and desire to impress upon their friends that they are cool. You overgeneralize like Donald Trump!

    • The same suspooks as usual…

  • Do the same thing to the teenagers, see how they like it.

  • What was a 14 year old doing on Metro at 1:00am? Isn’t there a curfew in DC? It is sad you can’t go out and have a nice evening without fear of feral teens attacking you. I lived in the area for 30 years and it has gotten horrible, I am glad I moved a way.

    • It’s just like when you hear about a 2 year-old getting shot to death at a party…at 3 am. Yet that always seems to be the case in “those” neighborhoods.

  • pull the emergency brake in the car and you bet the train will stop. don’t trust the conductor to do it. don’t trust that by you calling him or her on the call box that they will do something. PULL THE EMERGENCY BRAKE. metro doesn’t care. and stay off the green line. and don’t go to gallery place any time especially after dark.

  • WMATA and the Metro train operator ought to be charged for aiding and abetting a hate crime with bias against SEXUAL ORIENTATION –AND– DISABILITY.

    And why is MTPD Chief Ronald Pavlik Jr. not commenting on this obvious hate crime coverup directly?

    Why wasn’t MPD called to the scene? Why weren’t GLLU officers called in by Lanier or Groomes? Will Kenyan McDuffie hold a high-profile hearing for this anti-LGBT / anti-disability injustice as well?

    And why should any patrons of WMATA/Metro be trusting a MTPD chief whose ‘spokesperson’ goes out of his way to make homophobic *speculations* and *excuses* for *NOT* so classifying and investigating a very obvious hate crime?

    Is MTP chief and his spokesperson intentionally trying to prejudice a criminal and/or civil cases against the victims?

    Indeed, what has MTPD Chief Ronald Pavlik Jr. ever said publicly about pursuing and prosecuting anti-LGBT hate crime perpetrators on WMATA trains and buses? What is his record on anti-LGBT police bias?

    We need to hear from Pavlik directly. We need to hear from Mayor Bowser and Chief Lanier, too.

    But we also need to hear from our occasional/ sunny day “allies” on Council (e.g, Mendelson and McDuffie)… who seem to be implicitly, by their utter silence on the subject, encouraging hate crime coverups.

    DC Council members can not take credit for passing and/or supporting a tough DC hate crimes law, and then conveniently look the other way when the police for which they are responsible use the color of their authority to discriminate and/or encourage anti-LGBT violence.

    —–

    I hope the victims in this case get good lawyers– because DC’s law provides both criminal and civil remedies…

    DC Code
    § 22–3701…
    (1) “Bias-related crime” means a designated act that demonstrates an accused’s prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibility, homelessness, physical disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of a victim of the subject designated act.

    (2) “Designated act” means a criminal act, including arson, assault, burglary, injury to property, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, rape, robbery, theft, or unlawful entry, and attempting, aiding, abetting, advising, inciting, conniving, or conspiring to commit arson, assault, burglary, injury to property, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, rape, robbery, theft, or unlawful entry.

    § 22–3704. Civil action.

    (a) Irrespective of any criminal prosecution or the result of a criminal prosecution, any person who incurs injury to his or her person or property as a result of an intentional act that demonstrates an accused’s prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibilities, homelessness, physical disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of a victim of the subject designated act shall have a civil cause of action in a court of competent jurisdiction for appropriate relief, which includes:

    (1) An injunction;

    (2) Actual or nominal damages for economic or non-economic loss, including damages for emotional distress;

    (3) Punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury or a court sitting without a jury; or

    (4) Reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

    (b) In a civil action pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, whether an intentional act has occurred that demonstrates an accused’s prejudice based on the actual or perceived color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibilities, homelessness, physical disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of a victim of the subject designated act shall be determined by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence.

    (c) The parent of a minor shall be liable for any damages that a minor is required to pay under subsection (a) of this section, if any action or omission of the parent or legal guardian contributed to the actions of the minor.

  • So what was the reason for the driver not stopping? If he isn’t being investigated then Metro must support what he did, and if that is the case, why are they not offering an explanation?

  • Hopefully they’ll all be caught prosecuted. But I do like when these are reported and read the comments from Non Black gays. It will always remind me of how bad of a prejudice gay community we live.

  • investigate the conductor for mis conduct the train should have bene stopped doors open permit victims t o get of fthe train this conductor is either a total coward or part of the attack

  • I live in the metro area and as of now I’m not a metro user but this has gotten out of hand. I feel like I want to ride train at night prepared just to dish out punishment to these worthless kids.

  • another race oriented crime by blacks on whites.

  • So – yeah – look at the “person of interest” and look at the victims. Amazingly, one half of the gay pair was white. Not so amazingly, this white half was the one the black thuggress went after. You tell me this whole thing wasn’t a racial attack in addition to a homophobic attack.

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