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Gay cyclist killed in Rehoboth accident

Employee of gay bar charged in late-night hit-and-run

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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.

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Vice President Harris joins D.C. Pride Walk, makes history

First post-COVID Pride events include rally, Pridemobile Parade

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Vice President Harris joined the Pride Walk on Saturday. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Vice President Kamala Harris drew loud cheers and prolonged applause when she and her husband, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, joined more than 1,000 LGBTQ participants in D.C.’s Capital Pride Walk on Saturday, June 12, becoming the first U.S. vice president to participate in an LGBTQ Pride event.

Harris’ appearance at the Pride Walk, which some described as a march, was unannounced and came as a complete surprise to the dozens of onlookers who saw her as well as to leaders of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual Pride events.

“Oh my God, I can tell you that I screamed my head off,” said Tiffany Royster, a Capital Pride official who said she saw Harris at the Pride Walk.

“The fact that she showed up for us means that we mean something to her because she wouldn’t have stopped by randomly,” Royster told an NBC 4 News cameraman at Thomas Circle at the conclusion of a separate event on Saturday called the Pridemobile Parade. “We didn’t know she was coming.”

An NBC 4 report showed Harris making brief remarks while walking along 13th Street as the Pride Walk passed the Warner Theater and as it approached Pennsylvania Avenue at Freedom Plaza.

The Channel 4 News report said Harris called for Congress to pass the LGBTQ rights bill known as the Equality Act and said the Biden administration understands the importance of LGBTQ rights.

“We need to make sure that our transgender community and our youth are all protected,” she states in the Channel 4 News broadcast. “We need, still, protections around employment and housing,” she told people walking beside her and her husband. “There is so much more work to do, and I know we are committed.”

Harris wore a shirt with the words, “Love is Love” printed on it. Emhoff could be seen waring a T-shirt with a rainbow-colored design on it.

Harris and Emhoff did not appear at the Capital Pride Rally, which began at Freedom Plaza shortly before 2 p.m.

Among those speaking at the rally was D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who received loud applause when she told the crowd that during her travels across the country and abroad, she tells people that D.C. is “the gayest city in America.”

“So, Capital Pride, we have a lot to celebrate,” the mayor told rally attendees, many of whom waived hand-held rainbow Pride flags. “We have a lot to work for still,” she said. “We know that discrimination and violence is real. We know there’s too many guns on the street. And we know when all of us are not safe, none of us are safe,” she said.

“So, I know you’re going to stand shoulder to shoulder with me and I’m going to be with you every step of the way,” she said. “Happy Pride!’

Bowser also announced at the rally that Sheila Alexander-Reid, who has served as director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs since Bowser took office in January 2015, would be leaving that position soon to go on to “bigger and better things.” Alexander-Reid has said she will be joining a company that provides advice and training in the area of workplace nondiscrimination based on race, gender, and LGBTQ related workplace competency training.

At the conclusion of the rally, about 50 vehicles that had been parked next to and near Freedom Plaza led by a Capital Pride bus decorated with signs and banners began the city-wide Pridemobile Parade.
The route of the parade released by Capital Pride shows it was scheduled to travel through all four quadrants of the city, including neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Capital Pride organizers said the parade or caravan of vehicles, all of which were decorated with Pride displays, would be passing by homes and businesses in the city’s residential and commercial areas that also were decorated with Pride displays as part of its “Paint the Town Colorful” Pride event.

The Pride Walk began shortly after noon at Dupont Circle and traveled along P Street to Logan Circle, where it proceeded south on 13th Street to Freedom Plaza.

Capital Pride Alliance President Ashley Smith said a little over 1,000 people participated in the walk, which he noted Capital Pride decided to do and first announced less than two weeks before it was to take place.

Smith and Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos have pointed out that the city announced it would be lifting its more than year-long restrictions on large public gatherings in May, which didn’t give them enough time to pull together a large parade and street festival that have been part of D.C.’s Pride celebrations in the years prior to the COVID pandemic.

“Today has been truly phenomenal,” Smith told the Blade. “The turnout has been amazing. The total number of people that have come to support this and the efforts that we’re trying to do, it’s just been amazing,” he said.

“The community has truly been supportive of all the great work that the team, the staff, the volunteers and board members have been part of,” said Smith.

Bos said people had gathered in the various neighborhoods in the city where the Pridemobile Parade passed in advance of the parade’s arrival and cheered and waived as the vehicles drove by.
“There were kids with their parents and their families just sitting on the sidewalks waiting for the Pridemobile to come by,” Bos said. “It was pretty cool.”

About 100 people were standing or sitting in Thomas Circle, the final destination of the Pridemobile Parade, as it arrived there to loud cheers. The vehicles drove around the circle several times while honking their horns before the parade disbanded.

A smaller crowd waving Pride flags had also gathered on the steps of National City Christian Church, which faces Thomas Circle. Large rainbow-colored banners were hanging from the front of the church, showing its support for the Pride events.

Speakers at the Freedom Plaza rally, in addition to Mayor Bowser, included Smith of Capital Pride; Alexander-Reid; Ben De Guzman, director of the Mayor’s Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs; gay Latino activist Jose Gutierrez, who reflected on the fifth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016 in which 49 mostly LGBTQ people were killed and 53 wounded; transgender activist Monica Nemeth, who reflected on transgender lives lost to violence in the U.S.; Nancy Canas, president of Latinx Pride; Rehana Mohammed, chair of the board of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community; and June Crenshaw, executive director of the Wanda Alston Foundation, which provides housing for homeless LGBTQ youth.

Pride celebrations were scheduled to continue on Sunday, June 13, with about a dozen D.C. area restaurants participating in Capital Pride’s Taste of Pride Brunches, which would be raising money for local LGBQ organizations, according to an announcement on the Capital Pride website. The names and locations of the restaurants can be accessed at capitalpride.org.

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Sheila Alexander-Reid to step down as director of D.C. LGBTQ Affairs Office

Veteran community activist to take new job workplace bias consultant

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Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs, Sheila Alexander-Reid, gay news, Washington Blade

Longtime LGBTQ community advocate Sheila Alexander-Reid, who has served since 2015 as director of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Affairs, is stepping down from her city job in mid-July.

Alexander-Reid told the Washington Blade she will take a few weeks of accumulated leave beginning June 15 to recuperate from follow-up knee surgery before officially leaving her current job to take on a new role as a private sector consultant in the area of workplace bias and diversity training.

She said will announce the name of the private sector company she will be joining as a senior vice president when she begins her new job in mid-July.

Among her duties at the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office has been to lead the office’s staff in providing LGBTQ related diversity or competency training for D.C. government employees at all city agencies.

According to the office’s website, other activities it carries out include connecting LGBTQ residents with city services they may need, advocating on behalf of programs and policies that benefit the lives of LGBTQ residents, providing grants to community-based organizations that serve the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ homeless youth; and host events that “enrich, promote, and bring together” the LGBTQ community in D.C.

“That work is always going to be part of who I am,” Alexander-Reid said. “But now I will be expanding on that work to look at racial equity and gender bias as well as LGBTQ bias,” she said. “I feel like I will be doing the same work but in a different format.”

Prior to starting her job at the mayor’s office, Alexander Reid served as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the Washington Blade, Director of Strategic Engagement at the Washington City Paper, and Founder and Executive Director of the D.C. based Women in the Life Association. She has also served as host of Inside Out, a local FM LGBTQ radio show.

Alexander-Reid noted that when she began work at the LGBTQ Affairs Office in late January 2015, less than a month after Bowser took office as mayor, the office consisted of two full-time employees, including her, with a budget of $209,000. In the current fiscal year 2021, the office now has four full-time employees and two additional detailed employees, from the Department of Health and Department of Human Services. The mayor is proposing a budget of $561,000 for the office for fiscal year 2022.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say what a pleasure it has been to work for Mayor Bowser,” said Alexander-Reid. “I was excited to work for her and I don’t regret it for one second. “It’s been an amazing journey and I appreciate her having faith in me.”

She said she expects an interim director to be named to run the office in mid-July while a search is conducted for a permanent director.

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Attack on trans woman in D.C. laundromat captured in video

Police seek help from community in identifying suspects.

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(Screen capture via the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's YouTube channel)

D.C. police on Thursday night released a dramatic video taken from a surveillance camera showing two women and a man repeatedly punching and shoving a transgender woman at a laundromat on Benning Road in Northeast Washington in an incident in which the victim was stabbed in the head.

Police, who have listed the Sunday, June 6, incident as a suspected anti-LGBTQ hate crime, are appealing to the community for help in identifying the three suspects, who are shown in the video attacking the trans woman before escaping in a black SUV while carrying laundry bags.

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Sixth District obtained the video from a surveillance camera at the Capital Laundry Mat at 1653 Benning Road, N.E., according to a police report and a police statement released Thursday night.

The video shows that the suspects were accompanied by two young children. It shows one of the adult female suspects appearing to be dancing by herself in front of a row of washing machines seconds before the three suspects lunged at the victim and began punching her.

“One of the suspects brandished a knife and stabbed the victim,” the police statement says. “The suspects fled the scene in a vehicle. The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries,” the statement says.

“Anyone who can identify these individuals, or vehicle, or has knowledge of this incident should take no action but call police at 202-727-9099 or text your tip to the Department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411,” the statement adds. It says the department’s Crime Solvers program offers a reward of up to $1,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and indictment of a person or persons responsible for a crime committed in D.C.

Police spokesperson Alaina Gertz told the Washington Blade that because the investigation is ongoing, police could not immediately disclose whether they know if the victim knew one or more of the attackers before the incident took place or what, if anything, prompted the suspects to attack the victim other than due to her status as a transgender person.

The video released by D.C. police can be accessed here:  https://youtu.be/7v8lthvUPcg

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