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Betts murder draws attention to gay pick-up crimes

Police report three gay chat-line incidents since December

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News that gay D.C. middle school principal Brian Betts met at least one of the three 18-year-old men charged with his murder through a sexually oriented chat line has prompted activists and police to caution the public about meeting people through such venues.

Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence and the D.C. police’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit issued e-mail alerts in the past two weeks urging gays and others to take precautions before inviting home someone they meet through an Internet site or telephone chat line.

“Do not invite the person into your home without meeting in a safe, public space,” GLOV said in its May 7 alert. “Get as much personal information as possible, including a real face photo, phone numbers and a home address and try to verify the information.”

Kelly Pickard, a GLOV co-chair, said the group issued its alert after learning of another report by area police that a gay man was attacked near Manassas, Va., by someone he met through a telephone chat line.

Another gay male victim was killed in D.C. in January following a liaison arranged by phone, but authorities haven’t disclosed if the hookup originated from a sex chat line.

Insiders familiar with Internet and phone services linked to sexual hookups say the reported cases are the tip of the iceberg and far more incidents go unreported to police because victims often fear embarrassment and the public disclosure of their sexual orientation.

Police in Prince William County, Va., released a photo May 5 of an unidentified male suspect believed to have robbed at gunpoint a 28-year-old man in Manassas whom he met through a phone chat line.

According to Prince William police, the suspect and a male accomplice arrived by car at a prearranged meeting place with the victim at 2:30 a.m. April 12 in the Manassas area and invited the victim into their car. Police said the two drove the victim to Colton Lane, a dead end street, and escorted him by foot to a location between several nearby townhouses.

One of the two suspects then brandished a gun and forced the victim to turn over cash. The two suspects returned to their car and drove away, leaving the victim shaken but uninjured.

The incident occurred three days before Betts’ body was found in his house in Silver Spring, Md. Police said there were no signs of a forced entry into the home. Investigators said Betts appears to have met at least one of the three men arrested in connection with the murder through a sexually oriented telephone chat line — most likely on the night of the murder.

The three men arrested for the murder were Alante Saunders, whom police said had no fixed address; Sharif Tau Lancaster of Northwest D.C.; and Deonatra Gray of Oxon Hill, Md.

At least one other phone chat line-related murder took place in D.C. on Dec. 27. Police and prosecutors said 29-year-old Anthony Perkins, who was gay, was shot to death in his car by a suspect he met through a phone chat line on the night of the incident. In court papers, prosecutors said a witness told police that 20-year-old Antwan Holcomb boasted about pretending to be gay for the purpose of luring a “faggy” to a place where he could rob him.

The witness told police he overheard Holcomb say he shot Perkins during a scuffle as Holcomb attempted to rob Perkins inside Perkins’ car. Police have charged Holcomb with first-degree murder while armed.

D.C. police also have linked the murder of a gay Maryland man in January to a phone conversation in which 17-year-old William Wren of Southeast D.C. allegedly called the victim and invited him to meet him near the youth’s home. Police have charged Wren with first-degree murder while armed for allegedly shooting and killing Gordon Rivers, 47, inside his car while it was parked on Naylor Road, S.E. during a botched robbery.

Police have so far declined to say how Wren and Rivers met, raising speculation that the two might have met through a phone or Internet chat line.

“The New York City Anti-Violence Project documented 25 [gay-related] pick-up crime incidents in 2009, most of which involved Internet dating sites, including adam4adam and Craigslist,” GLOV says in its May 7 alert. “The types of reported crimes range from theft and drugging to sexual violence and murder.”

The alert says that these and local events “further confirms a trend — both locally and nationwide — that gay men who use these methods to arrange meetings are being targeted for violent crime.”

“While this trend has largely gone unreported by local media, GLOV believes that increased awareness and knowledge among the community is a vital component of keeping people safe.”

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Maryland

Moore joins Democratic chorus endorsing Harris

Announcement comes day after Joe Biden ended 2024 campaign

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, left, applauds as Vice President Kamala Harris, right, endorses U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks last month. Moore is now endorsing Harris for president. (Photo by Ulysses Muñoz/Baltimore Banner)

BY PAMELA WOOD | Maryland Gov. Wes Moore joined the chorus of prominent Democrats backing Vice President Kamala Harris to be the party’s nominee on Monday.

In a statement, Moore said the vice president is the best choice for Democrats and the nation.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner website.

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District of Columbia

Trans woman announces candidacy for ANC race in Columbia Heights

D.C. government official to challenge gay incumbent

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Vida Rangel (Photo by Praddy Banerjee/@praddyban)

Vida Rangel, a transgender woman who currently serves as Director of Operations in the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments, has announced her candidacy for an Advisory Neighborhood Commission seat in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood

In a statement released on July 11, Rangel said she is running for the ANC single member district seat of 1A10, which is currently held by first-term incumbent Billy Easley, who identifies as a gay man.

“I’m running a groundbreaking campaign as the first trans person of color who would be elected in the District of Columbia,” Rangel said in the statement. “Representation matters.”

Rangel’s statement says in her current city government job she is the ‘highest-ranking openly transgender official in D.C. government history.” If elected to the ANC, she said she would focus, among other things, on language access for Spanish speaking residents, affordable housing, and reliable and accessible public transportation.

“As an autistic, queer, nonbinary, transgender Latina woman, Rangel’s commitment to public service and community is shaped by her lived experience,” her campaign statement says. “Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast, Vida was raised by working parents and grandparents, along with her six siblings. She saw firsthand how social services and support could counterbalance devastating situations like a medical emergency, an unexpected bill, or even a misfiled form,” the statement says.

“My experiences ignited a fire, propelling me to fight for the rights of all communities, whether it be nondiscrimination protections, housing justice, access to education, worker’s rights, or voting rights,” she says in the statement.

Rengel could not immediately be reached for comment on whether she disagrees with any of the positions or actions taken by incumbent commissioner Easley.

Billy Easley (Photo courtesy of Easley)

In his successful campaign for the ANC 1A10 seat in the city’s 2022 election Easley stated in an online statement  “Together, we can make our streets safer and our community stronger. This neighborhood is where my husband and I met, it is where we fell in love, and it’s where we’ve lived for the last ten years.”

Easley told the Washington Blade in a July 19 phone interview that he has been endorsed in his re-election campaign by Ward 1 D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau, which Easley said was a recognition of his accomplishments during his first term in office.

“In the last election I knocked on every door, and I’m going to do that again because it’s really important to me to connect with the voters and make sure that they’re being represented and to be an advocate for them,” he said. “Vida is a great person,” he added. “I have nothing bad to say about her,” he said.

“But I have a record of accomplishment and I’m going to be running on that,” he told the Blade. “And I’m going to be running on making sure that our residents’ voices are heard. So, I’m ready to go.”

He said his accomplishments in his first term in office include contacting each of the residents in his district who the city’s water department said may have lead pipes and  informing them how to get the pipes replaced through a free D.C. program; his appointment by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to her Juvenile Justice Advisory Group; organizing a Public Safety Summit with D.C. police and other city officials to address the issue of crime; and “successfully advocating” for more city funding for increased trash pick-up services in the neighborhood.

Easley points out that besides him, at least three other members of the 10-member ANC 1A10 identify as gay men.

Vincent Slatt, who serves as chair of the D.C. ANC Rainbow Caucus, said he believes between three and four-dozen ANC commissioners citywide are members of the LGBTQ community. 

“This is probably not the first time that two LGBTQ people have run against each other for an ANC seat,” Slatt told the Blade in a statement. “However, to have two out LGBTQ candidates of color in one race certainly seems like a milestone,” he said. “Recently, we have had two out trans ANCs. To have a third out trans candidate is a sign of how much further along our city is than other places in the country,” Slatt said. “Not fully enough, but on the path forward.”

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Comings & Goings

Peter Chandler named executive director of Internet Works

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Peter Chandler

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Peter Chandler on being named executive director of Internet Works. Since 2020, Internet Works has worked to ensure the voice of small and medium-sized online platforms is included in policy discussions typically targeted at the largest companies.

Laura Bisesto, chair of the board, said “We’re thrilled that Peter Chandler has joined as Internet Works’ Executive Director. The tech policy space is constantly changing, especially around intermediary liability, and as we work to ensure small and medium-sized tech companies are included in the policy debates lawmakers are having around the country, Peter was a natural fit for us.”

Chandler has 30 years of campaign, political, legislative, and advocacy experience at the state and federal levels. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Federal Policy and Government Relations at TechNet. During his time at the association, Peter was named a “Top Lobbyist” by The Hill newspaper. Prior to that he served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine). Chandler has also consulted and trained numerous political and advocacy groups, including the ACLU, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in 1998. In 2020, he was elected to the board of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

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