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Gay man shot to death in Baltimore

Second victim in coma; police have no suspects



Gay News, Washington Blade, Alex Ulrich

Alex Ulrich (Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Police Department)

Baltimore police continue to investigate a shooting early Friday morning that left a gay aspiring photographer dead and a popular Mount Vernon community activist in critical condition.

Officials said that Joseph Alexander “Alex” Ulrich, Jr., 40, and Lawrence R. Peterson, 56, were standing on the front steps of a building near the Belvedere Hotel on East Chase Street just before 4 a.m. on Aug. 10 when shots rang out. Both victims were taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital where Ulrich died several hours later.

Peterson, who purchased Empire House, the historic 1874 brownstone that had once been Gov. William Pinkney Whyte’s private residence, in 1996 and converted it into a bed and breakfast, remains in a coma.

Police took the unusual step of releasing the victims’ photographs in hopes of generating additional leads — investigators have yet to identify any potential suspects, but Det. Jeremy Silbert of the Baltimore Police Department described one of the assailants to the Blade as a black male of average height with a medium build who was wearing dark clothes and a black baseball cap. He described the second person as a short, heavy-set black female who was wearing dark clothing and a skull cap.

Anthony Giuglielmi of the Baltimore Police Department added on Tuesday that it appears the victims’ sexual orientation did not play a role in the shooting.

“There’s no evidence thus far that it has anything to do with a hate crime,” he told the Blade.

Ulrich, who grew up in Smithsburg near Hagerstown in Washington County, attended Salisbury State University on the Eastern Shore where he was active in the school’s theater community. He had been an actor and worked with children with special needs in Gettysburg, Pa., before moving to Baltimore in the spring to start his photography career. He lived on the 900 block of North Calvert Street in Mount Vernon, the heart of the city’s gay community, with best friend Glenn Bennett.

“Knowing him was just like being inside of joy,” Bennett, who met Ulrich 20 years ago when he began studying at Salisbury State, told the Blade. “He was just the most friendly person, so very sweet and kind. He knew how to have a good time and he enjoyed a good laugh. We honestly have spent 20 years laughing hysterically together, which has been quite wonderful.”

Bennett said that a Pennsylvania art gallery had exhibited four of Ulrich’s photographs just before he died.

“He, for a very long time, had been wanting to just be a full-fledged photographer and had started working toward that,” he said. “He had been dreaming for years and years and years of moving to Baltimore and was finally able to do it and actually started to have all those things happen for him. It makes it that much more bittersweet for all of us.”

Ian Finkenbinder, who met Ulrich through Bennett, echoed these sentiments.

“Alex was an amazing funny, spirited individual who enriched and brightened the lives of everyone around him,” he said. “We are all devastated and left poorer for his absence in our lives.”

A vigil for Ulrich and Peterson is scheduled to take place tonight in West Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore at 7 p.m. A second memorial will take place in Smithsburg on Wednesday night.

Ulrich’s wake is scheduled to take place at the Rest Haven Cemetery in Hagerstown on Thursday from 6 – 9 p.m. His funeral is scheduled to take place at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Hagerstown on Friday at 11 a.m.

Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call homicide detectives at (410) 396-2100. All callers will remain anonymous. Metro Crime Stoppers is also offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment in this case. Call 1 866-7LOCKUP with any information.

Steve Charing contributed to this report.

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  1. Ian Awesome

    August 14, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    I miss him.

  2. Jefferson Boyer

    August 15, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Thank you for covering Alex’s death; oh how I wish you had the opportunity to interview him in person–

  3. Anthony McCarthy

    August 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I have known Lawrence for many years and he is a dedicated citizens and a bright light in our community. I was devastated to return to Baltimore today to find that he and Mr. Ulrich were the victims of such a senseless and violent attack. We are a better city because of Lawrence and my prayers are with him and my condolences go out to the Ulrich family.

  4. Darrell Russ

    August 20, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Alex was one of the most genuine people I have ever known. I met him 20 years ago while working at Talons nightclub in Frederick. We became fast friends and remained so until this tragic event. I will miss him more than anyone will know and I pray these criminals are caught and soon! My heart goes out to his family and all of the others, like myself, who loved him dearly. He took with him a piece of my heart.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action



Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January



SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9



David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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