July 10, 2012 at 10:49 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay cyclist killed in Rehoboth accident
Brian Meegan, gay news, Washington Blade

Brian Meegan is charged with first-degree vehicular homicide in the death of a fellow gay man on July 1. (Photo courtesy Delaware State Police)

An accident shortly after 2 a.m. on July 1 in which a motorist struck and killed a bicyclist minutes after the two left the same gay bar has shocked and saddened many in Rehoboth’s LGBT community.

Brian C. Meegan, 38, who was employed as a bartender at L Bar, a popular gay bar on Rehoboth Avenue just outside the Rehoboth town limits, allegedly slammed into the rear of a bicycle ridden by PNC Bank loan officer Russell “Rusty” Henman, 44, while driving his 2003 Jeep Wrangler, according to a statement released by Delaware State Police.

“The death of Rusty Henman was a tragic accident made even more so by the fact that Brian Meegan, the driver, is also part of our community,” said Steve Elkins, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth Community Center, an LGBT facility located about a mile from the scene of the accident.

The shock among Henman’s friends over his sudden death was heightened by information released by State Police that Meegan allegedly was driving while intoxicated and failed to stop his vehicle after hitting Henman’s bike. The police statement says his vehicle dragged the bike for several hundred feet before Meegan pulled into a parking lot and removed the bike from under the Jeep.

Russell Herman, gay news, Washington Blade

Russell ‘Rusty’ Henman was killed July 1 when another gay man leaving work at a Rehoboth bar struck him while Henman was riding his bike. (Photo via Facebook)

Police said they arrested Meegan a short time after he pulled into a CVS Pharmacy parking lot. News media photos show him being held in handcuffs by police at the site of the parking lot.

“The front of Meegan’s Jeep struck the rear of Henman’s bike causing him to be ejected onto the hood of the Jeep,” the police statement says. “Henman was carried approximately 400 feet until the Jeep struck a curb and stopped, throwing Henman onto the roadway. He was pronounced dead at the scene,” the statement says.

State Police charged Meegan with one count each of first-degree vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of a collision resulting in death, driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to report an accident resulting in injury or death, no proof of motor vehicle insurance and inattentive driving.

John Meng, co-owner of L Bar, disputes the police claim that Meegan was intoxicated, saying other employees who observed him during his work shift on the night of the accident say he wasn’t drinking.

“Brian was not drunk,” Meng told the Blade on Monday. “We have video of him at work. I don’t understand what the State Police said. He was not drinking while on his shift.”

Meng said Meegan no longer works for L Bar. “We don’t know where he is,” he said.

The Cape Gazette, a Delaware newspaper, quoted court documents filed by police that stated, “It became obvious that Meegan was under the influence of alcohol. Meegan displayed slurred speech, glassy, blood shot eyes and his breath had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage,” the newspaper quoted the court document as saying.

Police said Meegan refused a field sobriety test, prompting them to take him to nearby Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, Del., where his blood alcohol level was tested. Police did not immediately release the results of the blood test, saying the test conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner “could take some time.”

Meegan was arraigned in a Sussex County court and initially held in the Sussex County Correctional Institution. The Cape Gazette reported he was released on July 3 on $27,000 bail.

The Cape Gazette reported court records show that Meegan had been charged six weeks earlier with driving under the influence of alcohol in nearly the same area where his Jeep struck Henman’s bike. The Cape Gazette reported that in the earlier incident Meegan was also charged with failure to have insurance identification in his possession and failure to have vehicle registration on his possession.

Rehoboth Beach gay activist Peter Schott, who knew Henman, said Henman lived in the rural town of Snow Hill, Md., but spent nearly every weekend in Rehoboth.

“He liked to sing,” said Schott, who noted that he often saw Henman at the Rehoboth gay bar and restaurant Rigby’s, which features a piano player who leads patrons in singing show tunes. Schott said Henman patronized other places that feature karaoke.

People who know Meegan said he recently moved to Rehoboth from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and began working as a bartender at L Bar.

Meegan posted a message on his Facebook page at 5:13 p.m. on June 30 saying, “Working [a] double today, ready for Super July Fourth Week.” People familiar with L Bar said he was referring to working a double shift at the establishment, which included the afternoon happy hour period and the evening shift. His evening shift on June 30 would have extended past midnight to July 1, the morning of the accident.

The accident that took Henman’s life took place where Rehoboth Avenue merges into Route 1 Coastal Highway. Many Rehoboth residents have noted that bicycle traffic has increased in recent years. Some have called for more clearly designated bike lanes, especially in the location where Rehoboth Avenue merges with Route 1.

Others have called for more public awareness of programs aimed at helping people with alcohol related problems. Elkins said Camp Rehoboth hosts a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Thursdays in which 60 or more people participate.

“There are a number of AA meetings daily in the Rehoboth area,” he said.

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

  • Just curious why the sexual orientation is significant to this story? Bottomline, it was a tragic, avoidable accident caused by someone who was intoxicated that impacted the community. Your headline sends the message that perhaps it was something hateful which it was not. It was an accident and it was avoidable and it impacted the community, period.

  • Clearly he was very very drunk im so upset about this! The L bar should b charged as well for an employee drinking on the job. If he worked a double he had plenty of time to drink n no time to sober up bfor getting behind the wheel. He shouldve of hsd a license r a vehicle r a device that would be keep the vehicle frm starting when he was drunk! Terrible!

  • Shouldn’t have had a license r a vehicle! Im so mad cant even type what i want to say! Furious is more like it!

  • Notice how quickly the police report leads people to presume without evidence that he was intoxicated. I don’t know either person, and I’m very sorry for the loss of life. However I have to say I’m not happy about the way the police are declaring DUI without releasing the blood test results. We don’t know if Brian was intoxicated or not. Let’s see what the results show.

    Brian doesn’t appear to be the brightest person in the world, and his decision to pull into the CVS parking lot rather than staying put was in hindsight ill advised. However, since it is immediately adjacent to the accident it is not the most egregious example of “leaving the scene.” It’s not like he sped away and was caught in Milton. It’s plausible that he wanted to get himself and his car away from dangerous oncoming traffic.

    • Dangerous oncoming traffic? Meegan was heading north on a ramp to join Rt. 1 North. The “dangerous oncoming traffic” was four lanes to the left, separated by median and barrier. In other words, one-way traffic, nothing “oncoming.” There is another, more plausible explanation for Meegan’s actions after he killed Rusty. He was attempting to flee a crime scene to save his own skin. He failed.

  • I’m disappointed in your report regarding Russell’s death, specifically the unnecessary and repetitive reference to a specific sexual orientation. Lost count how many times you referenced “gay” as you attempted to report this tragic event. Our loss of a dear friend and family member is difficult enough without having to read how you centered his death around our gay community. Furthermore, I’m not comfortable that Russ would have wanted his family to read such a reference; you have no idea if he was out to his family. Lastly, it was not necessary to quote gay advocates from our community, you would have done much better speaking with those close to Russ. Regrads, Brian K Gray

  • This article makes me angry! What difference does it make to know their sexual preference? NONE. I saw no reason why those facts even needed to be reported on.

  • Seriously? Did the adjective “gay” need to be used at all? Did the poor victim also have a “gay” dinner before his most untimely “gay” death? Drunk driving continues to be a terrible problem, especially in a resort town. Perhaps the tragedy could have simply addressed those facts and issued a call for more action in improving this ongoing situation, which impacts the HUMAN community.

  • Gay Cyclist…really, I would expect this from The Drudge Report, not a gay newspaper. I thought the days of tagging gay to everything were behind us. You forgot to mention he was riding a gay bicycle. To mention in the article that both victim and perp are gay would be fine but you went the way of the Enquirer to grab a headline….shameful

  • Yes, the adjective gay needed to be used. The Blade would not have reported on a cycling fatality in Delaware if neither party were gay.

  • The owner of the L bar is not being completely truthful. After last call is done at the L Bar, the bartenders can all usually be found drinking as the patrons are leaving. This was a truly tradgic event. Regardless of the bartenders drinking, he has a DUI history and he hit someone without stopping! If he had stopped rather that continuing to drive till he hit a curb, perhaps Russell would still be alove today. The L Bar I am sure is trying to save face to avoid lawsuits by the family.

  • mr. chibbarro, Apparently you are a homophobic idiot. You should be fired for reporting like that.Are you related to the editor or something? Or is it the paper’s agenda. I’m not gay. Makes me wonder if you might be though.

  • The Blade is a gay newspaper. Of course they have a unique mission to report on gay issues, events, and people. The use of the gay tag would have been inappropriate in any general interest media. In the Blade, it is expected. In my opinion, no foul.

    The blood alcohol level of the L Bar employee will be revealed in court. If it turns out he was not legally drunk when he killed Rusty, that charge should be dropped. If he was legally drunk, then all alcohol-related charges should remain. Let’s wait and see.

    But let’s play devil’s advocate and say Meegan hadn’t even had one drink that night. The fact that he struck a very large man hard enough to separate him from his bicycle–with the victim ending up on his Jeep’s hood partially blocking the windshield and the bicycle winding up being dragged underneath–would indicate Meegan had to have known he had hit a human being.

    Eyewitness reports and police investigations clearly show the sequence of events. Rusty was on the hood of the Jeep until Meegan hit a curb and some lane dividers, thus causing Rusty to fall onto the road. What did Meegan then do? He sped away, apparently unconcerned about the man he had just hit. He drove to the next stop light on Rt. 1, turned right, drove a block to the entrance of the CVS parking lot, then made a sharp turn to then stop in the lot. At this location, he then attempted to extricate the bicycle from beneath the Jeep. He was arrested at this location before he could continue his flight from the area.

    At the least, it should be revealed in court that Meegan struck and killed a man on a bicycle, and did everything he could to ignore the victim’s need for help while trying to save his own skin by fleeing the scene of the crime. In my opinion, a plea bargain should not even be considered by prosecutors if the facts shown in court match the eyewitness reports and early investigation.

  • update this story please… this suspect pleaded guilty.

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