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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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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Leigh Ann Erdman

    July 11, 2012 at 7:45 am

    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.

  2. Amanda Cruise

    July 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    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!

  3. Amanda Cruise

    July 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    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!

  4. Anonymous

    July 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    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.

    • Jim Austin

      August 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      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.

  5. Brian K Gray

    July 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    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

  6. Karen Walker

    July 12, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    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.

  7. Ann Hendon

    July 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    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.

  8. wayne hodge

    July 13, 2012 at 8:53 am

    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

  9. Sheila Blidge

    July 13, 2012 at 9:45 am

    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.

    • Johnny Pitchford

      July 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      I agree with you, Sheila. I would have objected to this headline and article in the Washington Post, but not the Washington Blade.

  10. Lou James

    July 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    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.

  11. Louis Hickman

    July 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    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.

  12. Jim Austin

    August 13, 2012 at 10:48 am

    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.

  13. Timothy P. Credle

    January 23, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    update this story please… this suspect pleaded guilty.

    • Jeff Socorso

      January 26, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      I don't recall seeing this article in the blade. Funny, how it is more informative than what the local press reported. Hoo boy.
      Speaking of…, just saw Colby's mug shot in the coast press. Yikes.

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LGBTQ Democrats briefed on D.C. ranked choice voting bill

Council may already have enough votes to pass it

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Stein Club, gay news, Washington Blade
Jatarius Frazier of the Capital Stonewall Democrats was among officials briefed on the ranked choice voting bill. (Photo courtesy D.C. Government)

Members of D.C.’s Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, received a briefing Monday night from the chief of staff for D.C. Council member Christina Henderson (I-At Large) on a bill she introduced in July calling for a “ranked choice” voting system for D.C. elections.

The bill, called the Voter Ownership, Integrity, Choice, and Equity (VOICE) Amendment Act of 2021, calls for D.C. to join about 50 other jurisdictions across the country, including New York City and San Francisco, in giving voters the option of ranking up to five candidates for a particular office in the order of their preference.

Under the ranked choice voting system, if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the “first choice” votes, the candidate is declared the winner. But if no candidate receives greater than 50 percent of the first-choice votes in a race where there are three or more candidates, the system provides an instant runoff.

“The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate will have their votes count for their next choice,” according to a statement released by Henderson at the time she introduced the legislation. “This process continues in rounds until there’s a majority winner,” the statement says.

T.J. Maloney, Henderson’s chief of staff, told Capital Stonewall Democrats members during a virtual Zoom meeting that studies of the ranked choice voting system in jurisdictions where it has been adopted show that overall voter turnout has increased and, following a voter education process, voters appear to adjust and support the system.

Six other D.C. Council members joined Henderson in co-introducing the VOICE ranked choice voting bill, indicating it may already have a seven-vote majority in its favor on the 13-member Council. However, Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) does not support the current version of the bill, according to spokesperson Lindsay Walton.

Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee where the bill was sent, has not scheduled a hearing on the bill, even though Allen is one of the bill’s co-introducers.

Last week, the D.C. Democratic State Committee, which is the governing body of the D.C. Democratic Party and of which the Capital Stonewall Democrats is an affiliated member, voted to oppose the VOICE Act legislation. Some of its members said they believe a ranked choice voting system would be beneficial to the city’s smaller political party candidates, including Republicans and Statehood Green Party candidates, and would place Democratic Party candidates at a disadvantage.

Gay Democratic activist John Fanning, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat in the 2020 D.C. Democratic primary, said he favors a simple runoff election system over a ranked choice voting system in cases where multiple candidates run, and none receive at least 50 percent of the vote.

Among the ranked choice bill’s supporters is gay Democratic activist Austin Naughton, who serves as chair of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee. Naughton told the Washington Blade he is not an expert on the ranked choice voting system but his initial research into the system leads him to believe the system has the potential for providing a greater electoral voice for minority communities, including possibly the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ candidates who run for public office.

Capital Stonewall Democrats President Jatarious Frazier said the group was in the process of learning more about the ranked file voting system. No one raised the issue of the group taking a position on the legislation at Monday night’s meeting.

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Lesbian D.C. housing director to retire

Polly Donaldson worked to expand affordable units

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Polly Donaldson, housing, gay news, Washington Blade
Polly Donaldson (Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Polly Donaldson, who has served as director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development since 2015 as one of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s first high-level LGBTQ appointments, announced on Sept. 10 that she will leave her position at the end of this month to retire.

A statement released by the mayor’s office says Donaldson has led the design and implementation of the mayor’s housing initiative that has produced more than 14,250 units of affordable housing with another 12,300 units under construction or in the planning stages.

“When I came into office and committed to investing at least $100 million into the Housing Production Trust Fund every year, I knew we would need a leader with a true passion for affordable housing to get those funds out the door and into the community – and Polly was the right person for the job,” Bowser said in the statement.

“Then, two years ago, when we set a bold goal to build 36,000 new homes by 2025, with at least a third of them affordable, I was confident that Polly would have a plan to make that happen,” the mayor said in her statement. “She leaves D.C. government with our city on track to meet that goal, and for that we are grateful, and we celebrate her service to our city.”

At the time Donaldson began her job as the city’s housing director she was a recognized expert in affordable housing and homeless related programs. She had served since 2004 as executive director of the Transitional Housing Corporation, a nonprofit organization that provides services to homeless people and develops programs for transitioning them into permanent homes.

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HRC endorses McAuliffe, Ayala, Herring in Va.

Advocacy group on Tuesday announced statewide endorsements

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Human Rights Campaign, gay news, Washington Blade, Equality March
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday announced endorsements for three Virginia candidates on the statewide ballot in November.

These endorsements include Terry McAuliffe for governor, state Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County) for lieutenant governor and Mark Herring for reelection as attorney general.

“All Virginians deserve leaders who will fight for their rights to achieve health and success regardless of who they are or who they love,” said HRC in their press release. “The Human Rights Campaign is proud to endorse incredible champions who have spent their careers delivering on that promise of equality.”

McAuliffe, who was governor from 2014-2018, signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees and vetoed every anti-LGBTQ bill that came across his desk during his tenure.

“Every human being deserves to be treated equally, live free from fear, and thrive regardless of who they are or who they love,” McAuliffe said. “I am grateful for the support of the Human Rights Campaign, and together we will continue to ensure Virginia remains open and welcoming to all.”

Herring, a vocal supporter of LGBTQ equality, in 2017 joined 18 other state attorneys general in calling on Congress to block then-President Trump’s ban on transgender service members openly serving in the military.  

Ayala, a state delegate since 2018, similarly co-sponsored and voted in support of numerous pro-equality bills, including the landmark Virginia Values Act, a bipartisan measure that made Virginia the first state in the South to extend nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

If elected, Ayala will become the Virginia’s first female and woman of color lieutenant governor.

Virginia’s statewide general election is Nov. 2. Early voting begins Friday.

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