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Off-duty D.C. cop arrested for shooting trans women

Activists, Mayor Gray express shock, outrage

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About 70 people turned out for a 6:30 p.m. rally at the site of the shooting.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray joined LGBT activists on Friday in expressing shock and outrage over news that an off-duty District police officer allegedly fired a pistol at three transgender women and two male friends while the group was sitting in a car on a city street.

Police issued a statement Friday saying three of the people in the car “sustained non-life threatening injuries” in the incident. The statement said the officer involved in the incident was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and driving while intoxicated.

Deputy Police Chief Diane Groomes told the Blade that the officer, identified by police sources as Kenneth Furr, was stripped of his police duties pending the outcome of an investigation by the department’s Internal Affairs Division and Force Investigation Team.

MORE IN THE BLADE: TRANS ACTIVISTS HOLD PROTEST OUTSIDE POLICE, US ATTORNEY OFFICES

In a separate statement released earlier in the day, Mayor Gray expressed “shock and outrage” over the incident.

“I am deeply troubled by the apparent circumstances surrounding this incident and await the results of a full MPD investigation,” Gray said. “These are serious charges, and they are particularly disturbing to have been brought against one who is sworn to protect and serve.”

Gray praised members of the LGBT community, including officials with the local group Transgender Health Empowerment, for providing immediate assistance to the victims and help in the police investigation.

Employees with Transgender Health Empowerment and members of the D.C. Trans Coalition said they spoke on Friday with two of the transgender women involved in the incident. According to the employees and the DCTC members, the two women said the incident started when Officer Furr, appearing drunk, approached one of the two women on the street near First and Pierce Streets, N.W. about 5:25 a.m.

They said the two victims informed them that Furr became angry when he solicited one of the women for sex and she turned him down. What unfolded next remains unclear, with police officials saying they wanted to wait until Furr appeared in court on Saturday or Monday before providing full details as they known them.

“Preliminary investigation reveals a confrontation occurred involving an off-duty officer and five other individuals, some of which are members of the transgender community,” police said in a statement released Friday morning. “The officer discharged a handgun and one person was shot and sustained non-life threatening injuries,” the statement says.

“Two other individuals involved in the incident sustained injuries which are also non-life threatening,” according to the statement. “The nature of those injuries is under investigation to determine their cause.”

T.H.E. employee and transgender activist Jeri Hughes said two of the trans women involved in the incident told her organization that one of them was struck by a bullet in the hand and the other was grazed by a bullet. Hughes said one of the men in the car with the three trans women, who was identified as the brother of one of the women, sustained a “very serious” gunshot wound and was in critical condition at George Washington University Hospital.

Police would neither confirm nor deny that report as of late Friday, saying they were still investigating the details of the incident.

About 70 people turned out for a 6:30 p.m. rally at the site of the shooting, which was organized by T.H.E. and DCTC. Among those who spoke at the rally were D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Groomes, who said she was appearing on behalf of Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

DCTC member Elijah Edelman told the gathering that Friday’s shooting of at least two transgender women by an off-duty police officer was one of many attacks and assaults against trans women that have occurred in the past few months in D.C.

“So I think it’s fair to say a lot of us are really pissed off,” he said. “It’s very, very frustrating. We had conversations with Chief Lanier over the past several weeks, over the past several years, and nothing changes – nothing changes,” Edelman said. “So this is a moment in which we can finally say enough – we’re not going to keep doing this.”

Other activists speaking at the rally, including D.C. Trans Coalition member Ruby Corado, praised the police handling of the latest incident. They said they were hopeful that police were finally carrying out a department policy for transgender related matters that was excellent “on paper” but had not been followed very often by rank and file officers.

In the latest case, the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit was called immediately to provide help, Groomes told the rally. She said the GLLU, in turn, immediately alerted LGBT activists on its e-mail list about the incident and what the unit was doing to respond.

Two Latino transgender women who spoke at the rally gave personal accounts of attacks against them in the city. Both women spoke in Spanish, with Corado translating their remarks in English. One told of how she was beaten and raped two weeks ago by an ex-boyfriend. The other women told of how she was attacked inside Dupont Circle by a male assailant who she is certain targeted her because of her status as a transgender woman.

“We wanted them to come here so we can put a human face on the statistics of so many of these cases that continue to happen,” Corado said.

Others speaking at the rally included A.J. Singletary of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), Cyndee Clay of Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), and Sadie Vashti of D.C. Trans Coalition.

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Capital Pride to resume ‘large-scale’ outdoor events

Organizers say one of the largest ever parades and festivals set for June

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Happy days are here again? Scenes like this from 2019 could be back in 2022. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, has announced on its website that it plans to resume the city’s Pride Parade and Festival in June 2022 that traditionally has attracted tens of thousands of participants after canceling the two events in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.

“The Capital Pride Alliance is excited to announce the highly anticipated return of our annual large-scale outdoor Pride Celebration in June 2022!” the group says on its website. “Registration for the Capital Pride Parade on June 11, 2022, and the Capital Pride Festival on June 12, 2022, will be open soon,” the website message says.

Ryan Bos, the Capital Pride Alliance executive director, told the Washington Blade the group met with D.C. government officials on Monday to coordinate plans for the upcoming outdoor events in June. He said an updated announcement with more details of the events would be released later this week or early next week.

The Capital Pride website message focuses on the parade and festival.

“Join the LGBTQ+ community for the return of the historic Capital Pride Parade,” the website message says. “In 2022, a modified route will honor our history and acknowledge the evolution of the LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in Washington, DC, while respecting the origins and importance of taking to the streets in our fight for equality,” it says.

“Be prepared to experience one of the largest Pride Parades to ever take place in the United States Capital,” the message adds.

The message says the Pride Festival will resume at its traditional location on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. near the U.S. Capitol that it refers to as America’s Mainstreet.

“Enjoy a full day of entertainment on three stages, food, drink and advocacy with over 300 exhibitors,” the website message says. “The Festival is the largest annual event in the national capital region,” the message continues, adding that the Capital Pride Concert will also return this year at its usual locations at the site of the festival.

“You will experience entertainment on three stages, from international headliners to our best local regional LGBTQ+ talent,” according to the Capital Pride website message. It says concert performances will take place from 12-10 p.m. And a “Capitol” Sunset Dance Party will take place at the festival site from 8-10 p.m.

“The concert may end but the dancing will continue,” the message says. “Enjoy the electronica sounds of an international DJ sensation while you dance in the middle of America’s Main Street on Pennsylvania Avenue, with the sun setting on the U.S. Capitol.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s public health officials ended the city’s COVID-related restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend outdoor events as well as indoor entertainment events last May as the number of COVID infections began to decline.

But as the number of Omicron variant cases of the COVID virus increased dramatically in the fall of 2021, the mayor resumed the requirement of the use of face masks in all indoor public places.

Also put in place earlier this month by the city was a requirement that restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other entertainment establishments require customers to show proof of vaccination as a condition for admission to the establishments. Bowser, however, has said the city was not considering resuming restrictions on the number of people allowed in establishments such as restaurants and bars or outdoor stadiums.

Capital Pride Alliance has not said whether it will put in place a vaccination requirement for admission to the Pride festival and parade as well as some of its planned indoor events. With the number of Omicron related COVID cases beginning to drop in the past two weeks in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs, the prospect of a resumption in restrictions on the number of people allowed to assemble at outdoor events like the Pride Parade and Festival appears to be less likely.

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Virginia

Man who killed one in 2000 Roanoke gay bar shooting dies in prison

One of the worst bias attacks targeting LGBTQ community

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Ronald Edward Gay died while serving life sentences for attacking a Virginia gay bar. (Washington Blade clipping from Sept. 29, 2000)

A man sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison for the September 2000 shooting at a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., in which one man lost his life and six others were wounded, died of natural causes on Jan. 15, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told WSLA 10 TV News that Ronald Edward Gay died while being treated at a hospital near the Deerfield Correctional Center, a state prison where he had been living as an inmate. He was 75. 

Witnesses and law enforcement officials reported at the time of the shooting that a middle-aged man later identified as Gay arrived alone at Roanoke’s Backstreet Café, a popular gay bar, on the night of Sept. 22, 2000.

According to an account by an eyewitness to the incident who spoke last week with the Roanoke Times newspaper, after ordering a beer and standing next to the bar for a short time, Gay reached into the long trench coat he was wearing, pulled out a 9mm pistol, and fired a round “straight into the chest of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet, before opening fire on the rest of the bar.”

Overstreet, a beloved regular patron at the Backstreet Café, died at the scene of the shooting. Six others, who were wounded by bullets fired by Gay, later recovered, but they and many others who were present and witnessed the shooting were left emotionally scarred, the Roanoke Times reported.

In the weeks following the shooting, news media outlets, including the Washington Blade and the Washington Post, reported findings of an investigation by local police that Gay told police he went to Backstreet specifically to target gay people because he became bitter after years of being taunted and teased for his last name of “Gay.”

The Roanoke Times reported that, among other things, Gay told police “God told him to do it” and that he once wrote that there was an evil inside of him telling him “to shoot or have no rest.”

Gay later pleaded guilty to multiple charges against him, including murder. On July 23, 2001, he was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in prison for the shooting incident and the murder of Overstreet.

The Backstreet incident in Roanoke was considered by LGBTQ rights advocates and others to be one of the worst incidents in which LGBTQ people were targeted for a shooting until the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in which 49 people died and 53 more were wounded in a mass shooting by 29-year-old Omar Mateen.

Mateen, who was shot and killed by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff, told police in a phone call from inside the nightclub after the shooting began that he swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and his attack against the gay nightclub was motivated by the U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria. The FBI later classified the incident as a terrorist attack.

The Roanoke Times reported that the shooting incident at Backstreet Café prompted LGBTQ residents and allies to gather in the days and weeks after the incident for vigils and marches. About 1,000 people walked through the streets of downtown Roanoke to honor the life of Overstreet and to urge Congress to pass federal hate crimes legislation, the newspaper reported.

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Local

Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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