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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?”


District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

‘Resources to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through’



Celina Gerbic, a member of the Point Foundation’s board of directors, speaks at last year’s event. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in D.C. know the Point Foundation for its longstanding scholarship program and its popular Taste of Point fundraiser each spring. But the nonprofit is offering a growing range of services to its young scholars, including mental health resources and social media support.

This year’s Taste of Point brought mixologists, restaurateurs, and donors together on May 3 at Room and Board for the annual celebration. With a number of local businesses and organizations donating to the silent auction, the event both raised money for Point Foundation’s scholarships while recognizing scholarship recipients and program alumni.

Among the lineup of featured speakers was one of the foundation’s flagship scholarship recipients, Rio Dennis, a dual master’s and law candidate at Georgetown University.

“I applied for the Point Foundation Flagship Scholarship because I believed in its mission of helping LGBTQ+ students achieve their academic goals while also providing training and resources so we can become better leaders within the LGBTQ community during school and long term,” Dennis said in her speech. 

The Taste of Point celebration began in 2013, born from another event called the Cornerstone Reception. Originally planned as a normal fundraiser with hor d’oeuvres, the foundation transformed it into the current Taste of Point celebration that facilitates partnerships with new, local restaurants.

Some restaurants, like Compass Rose and Hank’s Oyster Bar, partnered with Point Foundation for their first celebration. They have been catering at the fundraiser ever since.

“It really gives you the sense of the amount of love and the amount of community that we have around the Point Foundation and mission,” said Celina Gerbic, a member on the foundation’s board of directors. “They really see, with hearing from the scholars, what the effects can be if we’re raising money for those scholarships and mentoring opportunities.”

The event also allows the foundation to showcase new offerings, such as the Community College Scholarship that was rolled out just before the pandemic in collaboration with Wells Fargo. The community college program gives scholars a financial scholarship each year of their community college experience as well as coaching and admissions counseling for students planning to transfer to a university. 

Meanwhile, the foundation is also expanding its new BIPOC scholarship, which announced its next round of recipients on May 22. The scholarship is currently supporting between 500 and 555 scholars across the country.

Omari Foote, one of the current BIPOC scholarship recipients, appreciates how the scholarship recognizes her as a Black queer student. She is even encouraging other queer students and friends to apply to receive similar assistance.

However, Point is even more than that, Dennis notes. 

Before the school year started, the Point Foundation sent Dennis and all of the new flagship scholars to Los Angeles for a leadership development conference. Scholars discussed how to become active leaders on campus, how to ask for certain resources, what is offered by their campuses, and what tutoring programs are available.

This year, Point also did a joint partnership with an online therapy program to offer discounted prices for all scholars. 

“I have anxiety and depression and I struggled a lot in undergrad with trying to balance that with my having to support myself financially,” Dennis said. “So I was definitely grateful that Georgetown did have a program that is specifically for people of color to get free therapy and Point definitely helped with… asking those questions because it is one of those programs that isn’t as well publicized.”

Point even provided Dennis with a mentor who was also a Point Scholar in law school. Meeting monthly on Zoom and texting all throughout the month, Dennis’s mentor provides academic support that helps her use the right resources and make decisions about her career.

Foote finds the scholarship unique in other ways as well. As a recipient of a handful of other scholarships outside of Point, Foote’s interactions with her scholarship programs mostly stop after they send instructions for writing donor thank you notes. But Point keeps reaching out to maintain a relationship with scholars long after that.

“They’ve reached out to me to spotlight me on Instagram,” Foote said. “They reached out to me even for this dinner, paying for my transportation to and from the dinner … It’s like they’re not just there to give you the money. They’re there to really help you navigate the college world and to be that caring supportive system that a lot of us just don’t have anymore now that we are living by ourselves.”

Last November, the foundation also held an Out in Higher Ed Week, wherein they teach scholars how to be LGBTQ+ advocates on campus. These resources help students navigate the ins and outs of discussing LGBTQ+ issues in university settings.

After graduation, Dennis has even thought about returning to the Point Foundation as a mentor to help future Black queer students, especially first generation law students, balance their mental health and financial situations.

“Point has connected me with fellow scholars who have become my friends. Point has provided me with resources and support to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through,” Dennis said. “I definitely plan on continuing to be involved with Point.”

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