May 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Blade reporter attacked, robbed in Rehoboth Beach

Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson suffered a broken nose in an attack by two or three unidentified assailants in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Sunday night while walking along a residential street near the house where he was staying for the Memorial Day weekend.

Johnson said the attackers jumped him from behind as he walked along King Charles Street while he was headed toward the town’s business section to meet friends at the Blue Moon gay bar and restaurant.

He said one of the assailants, whom he described as young black males, grabbed his cell phone as they punched him in the head and body. He said they made no attempt to take his wallet and did not say anything as they attacked him.

Johnson said a police officer and detective from the Rehoboth Beach Police Department interviewed him about the incident, saying the matter was under investigation.

The incident took place on Johnson’s birthday.

Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks said he would issue a statement on Tuesday seeking help from the public in the police investigation, with the hope that someone who may have witnessed the assault against Johnson or who might know the identities of the attackers would come forward.

Banks said the attack against Johnson, which he lists as a robbery by force and violence, is the first such incent to occur in the town so far this year. He said there were eight cases of robbery by force and violence in Rehoboth last year, and police made arrests in each of those cases. Some took place on the boardwalk.

“The fact that we made an arrest in every case last year shows how we take this very seriously,” Banks said.

Banks said that from Johnson’s description of what happened, there’s no evidence to indicate the attack and robbery was a hate crime. But he said police would pursue all possible leads and could change their classification of the crime if new information surfaces.

Johnson said at least one of the attackers appeared to be in his late teens and early 20s, sported a shaved head, had a medium build, and was wearing a red sweat shirt with a hood. Johnson said hood was not placed over the man’s head at the time of the attack.

Johnson was treated and released from Beebe Memorial Hospital in nearby Lewes, Del. He said follow-up treatment for his injury would take place upon his return home to Arlington, Va.

Rehoboth Beach gay activist Peter Schott said violent assaults of this kind are “an anomaly” in the popular beach resort town, which has several gay bars and a large gay and lesbian presence.

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

  • Chris,

    I am so sorry to hear about this. I hope that your injuries heal quickly and that you will be okay.

    Patsy Lynch

  • I’m sorry that you were attacked and wish you a speedy recovery.

  • Well the gays love Rehoboth but the town doesn’t love them; including the lwas enforcement so keep on spending your money in a place that doesn’t not support gays.

    • There is nothing to support that this was gay related. The mugging was more likely related to assaults and harassment and thefts over the weekend which were attributed to groups from around the beach area. The Rehoboth police are increasing patrols near the gay beach area as a precaution.

    • LOL. If it wasn’t for the gays, Rehoboth would be nothing more than another pathetic shore town in decay. Next time you comment, you may want to do a little homework first…..that is if you’re mentally capable.

  • So sorry to hear about this ! Get better soon mentally and physically

  • You’d think Rehoboth would be a safe place to be gay. I don’t know why you report this as a robbery. It sounds like they took his cell phone so he couldn’t call 911. If it was a robbery they would have taken his wallet.

  • Sorry but why is this news?

  • this is awful. i stayed on that very same street this weekend! i’m so sorry buddy. please let us know if we can do ANYTHING (perhaps protest the police department or something). this is a HATE CRIME b/c they didn’t steal his wallte!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Don’t be an ASS. It was a random act of obviously amateur juvenile delinquents. They had eight such incidents in Rehoboth last year, and arrests were made in all, the police are doing their job, get over your bitterness. What’s the matter, a cop turn you down when you asked him to handcuff you. It’s people like you who are polarizing our community from the mainstream.

  • Rehoboth is a very safe and welcoming place to be gay. We have a police force that takes any type of assault based on sexual orientation very seriously. There is no reason to think that the assault on Chris was in any way gay related. Unfortunately, Rehoboth — like town’s all across America — is dealing with what appears to be gang related activity. The smart thing — regardless of where you are — is to always be aware of your surroundings and, whenever possible, stay in a group.

  • Chris, I’m sorry to learn about this. Feel better soon.

  • They took his cell phone? Nothing else? This story isn’t complete. Other things happened. Chris isn’t telling the full story.

  • Another victim of homophobia?

    I am not talking about the motivation of the suspects in this assault. Rehoboth Police have a law that prohibits parking after midnight on St. Lawrence St., Queen St. and Prospect St., I do not think it is a coincidence that this law only applies to the streets near “Poodle Beach”. I think the City Government thinks it’s ok to be gay in Rehoboth; just don’t do it after dark. Look at the selective enforcement of noise violations against “gay friendly” businesses. There is no logical reason to have a law prohibitng parking on the those streets except to keep the “gays” from enjoying the boardwalk.
    The result is that if a man wants to go to a restaurant or club and then go hangout on the South Boardwalk he has to park several blocks away.
    The local “thugs” realize this and I think that is why so many people have been mugged in this area.

    I think everyone needs to call the Rehoboth Beach Police Department Chief Keith Banks (302)227-2577 and the City Manager’s Office Gregory Ferrese (302)227-4641 and demand the parking laws be repelled before someone gets killed on King Charles St.

  • Christ- looks like black people have found Rehoboth. There goes the gayborhood.

  • Get well soon, Chris. Decompress, get yourself back in balance– as the LGBT community needs your nose for news, and that reporting craft you do so well.

    Just when we think LGBT people have made so much progress, an incident like this reminds us how ingrained the hate and prejudice is– and how tolerated crimes against LGBT people can be.

    FWIW, a good number of years ago now, my partner and I emerged from an early summer evening at the Blue Moon and quickly became aware that 3 young men (Caucasian, late teen ‘kids’) walking behind us, suddenly became loudly, verbally hostile and threatening to us.

    “Look at the effin faggots”… yadda, yadda.

    Within seconds, we decided to cross the street as an avoidance measure. As we did, one of the ‘kids’ hurled a crushed beer can at us, hitting my partner in the back. I quickly turned and shot them an intense look, pointing my finger at them and shaking my head, with a “don’t do it” warning.

    These Einsteins apparently didn’t like the 3-on-2 odds, and moved on. But I have no doubt they would have continued and escalated their hate crime, if either one of us had been seen emerging from a well-known gay restaurant and bar, but walking ALONE.

    It is extremely disconcerting to be assaulted– for no other apparent reason– in a resort town in which a high concentration of LGBT patrons are otherwise welcomed with open arms.

    Contrary to Steve’s assertion, there is no reasonable doubt in my mind that the assault on Chris Johnson, was, de facto, motivated by Chris Johnson’s perceived sexual orientation. Parsing the legal definition of a prosecutable “hate crime” misses the point. Nor are locals’ denials of a threat to LGBT visitors very credible to said visitors.

    It matters not whether these violent perpetrators personally hate LGBT people, or whether they perceive LGBT people as merely easy, profitable robbery opportunities. Moreover, Chief Banks’ patrols may not be as thorough/ visible as they could be in RB’s LGBT-frequented blocks. Whatever the motive and/or increased opportunity, Chris Johnson’s nose is just as broken.

    The fact is, too many young, criminal perpetrators still feel Rehoboth Beach is a reasonably safe place to harass, assault and/or rob its high concentration of LGBT summer visitors.

    Everyone in Rehoboth Beach– residents, merchants, and especially its police and prosecutors, need to refocus on making it clear to hate crime perpetrators that they will be pursued and prosecuted successfully. Likewise, Washington area patrons of Rehoboth’s LGBT and LGBT-friendly businesses ought to make clear their concerns for their own and others’ public safety.

    Chris, even such as it was, I’m sure thousands of your readers join me now in extending to you our warmest greetings for a belated happy birthday– with our warmest wishes for your speedy recovery.


  • I hope you get well soon…as it is always sad to hear that a crime like this has taken place..let alone
    on your birthday ( the day will be never forgotten)…I also must say to Chris at all times no matter where you are try and have a few friends with you…even in your hometown. Having two or more people with you during the evening hours deters these type of ill criminals from doing the crime. In any case I hope that you are better soon and back to your normal duties..

  • Chris, sorry to read about your attack at the beach. I do not know you personally I live betteen 65/70 miles from DC, in VA, but I sincerely wish you a speedy recovery. When I lived in Arlington years ago, use to attend clubs in DC, Be care and sincerely wish you a total reovery. God Bless.

  • How could someone type, “I’m sorry but how is this news?” This attack happened to a person in our community and he is a blade reporter, remember you are reading this in The Washington Blade. A few of these comments I found to be rather insensitive. Who cares if it happened because Chris is gay or not, the fact of the matter is that it happened and he needs a recovery, physically and I’m sure emotionally. Keep your head up Chris!!!

  • Rehoboth Beach is not gay friendly and is downright unsafe. The business owners want our gay money, but by and large, they treat us with contempt. Every summer we read about these types of attacks on gay men in Rehoboth. There are plenty of other gay-friendly destinations on the east coast. I will not go back.

  • There’s no indication this is a hate crime so why is it news? Just because the victim works for the Blade?

  • well, maybe if he hadn’t been walking alone at night with his flip flops flap-flap-flaping so loud, he could be heard all the way down the street, then maybe it wouldn’t have happened!

    as the victim of a gay-bashing, i certainly sympathize with him, but there are ways to prevent such things from occuring. for instance, try not to make such a spectacle of yourself. i NEVER wear flip-flops ANYWHERE! party because they announce my presence wherever i go, but also partly because i’m not one of those trendy gays who dressed like everyone else, with their pastel-polo shirts with the collars popped up and old navy flip flops!

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