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Suspected gunman appears in court; charged with assault with intent to kill

Prosecutors ask for mental health evaluation

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Law gavel, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins II was ordered held without bond on Thursday by a federal judge one day after the FBI and D.C. police apprehended him for allegedly shooting a security guard in the lobby of the headquarters of one of the nation’s leading anti-gay groups. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Herndon, Va., resident Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, a part-time volunteer for D.C.’s LGBT community center, was ordered held without bond on Thursday by a federal judge one day after the FBI and D.C. police apprehended him for allegedly shooting a security guard in the lobby of the headquarters of one of the nation’s leading anti-gay groups.

The FBI placed Corkins in custody around 11 a.m. Wednesday in the lobby of the Family Research Council’s national headquarters at 801 G Street, N.W., after police said he shot security officer Leo Johnson in the arm. Police said Johnson, who sustained a non-life-threatening wound, and other guards wrestled Calkins to the floor and took away the gun.

U.S. District Court Judge Alan Kay ordered Corkins held until Aug. 24, when a joint preliminary and detention hearing will be held in which prosecutors must present evidence showing probable cause that Corkins committed offenses related to two charges filed against him Thursday morning by the FBI.

One of the charges is the federal offense of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. The second is a D.C. offense of assault with intent to kill while armed.

FBI officials said the firearms charge was brought because Corkins transported the gun and ammunition from Virginia, where he purchased them legally, to D.C. for the purpose of committing a crime.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Martin, one of two prosecutors in the case, asked Kay during the court hearing to arrange for Corkins to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before the preliminary and detention hearing set for Aug. 24. Kay responded by calling the prosecutors and court appointed defense attorney David Vos to a private bench conference to discuss the request.

When the bench conference ended, Kay adjourned the hearing without announcing whether he approved or denied the government’s request for the psychiatric evaluation.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said after the hearing that Kay granted the government’s request for a mental health evaluation of Corkins.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier called Johnson a hero for risking his life by preventing Corkins from entering the upper floors of the building where Family Research Council employees work. Lanier said that while authorities were not certain what Corkins’ motive was, a stash of ammunition recovered from his backpack suggested he might have been planning a mass killing.

An FBI arrest affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Thursday morning says a witness told the FBI “Corkins stated words to the effect of ‘I don’t like your politics’ to Johnson and other security officials in the lobby seconds before he pulled out his gun and shot Johnson.

The FBI, which is leading the investigation into the case, charged Corkins with the federal offense of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. It also charged him with the D.C. offense of assault with intent to kill while armed.

The affidavit says authorities recovered from the scene a loaded Sig Suer 9mm pistol that Corkins allegedly used to shoot Johnson and two magazines loaded with 9mm ammunition.

It says the FBI also recovered from a backpack that Corkins had with him a box containing an additional 50 rounds of 9mm ammunition along with fifteen Chick-fil-A- sandwiches.

Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Tony Perkins said the Chick fil-A sandwiches found in Corkins’ backpack strongly suggest that he had targeted the FRC for its conservative political beliefs, possibly including its opposition to same-sex marriage. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a news conference Thursday outside the Family Research Council’s headquarters, held less than an hour after Corkins appeared in court, FRC Executive Director Tony Perkins said the Chick fil-A sandwiches found in Corkins’ backpack strongly suggest that he had targeted the FRC for its conservative political beliefs, possibly including its opposition to same-sex marriage.

Perkins noted that the Family Research Council had issued statements in support of Chick-fil-A during the past several weeks, after some gay activists criticized the company’s president for his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Perkins appeared to make note of the LGBT organizations that spoke out against the shooting of the FRC security officer when he told reporters, “I do also want to express my appreciation to the groups and organizations that we do not agree with on many public policy issues who have also expressed their outrage at what took place here yesterday.”

But Perkins created a stir among LGBT groups when he criticized the pro-LGBT Southern Poverty Law Center, a nationally recognized civil rights group, for being “reckless” for labeling groups like the FRC as hate groups.

“I want to be clear that Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shot yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues and our friend Leo Johnson,” Perkins said.

“But Corkins was given license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations as hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy,” Perkins said. “And I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology that is leading to the intimidation in what the FBI here has categorized as an act of domestic terrorism.”

In a statement posted on its website Thursday afternoon, Southern Poverty Law Center senior fellow Mark Potok called Perkins’ comment “outrageous,” saying SPLC has for more than 40 years denounced violence.

“We have argued consistently that violence is no answer to problems in a democratic society, and we have strongly criticized all of those who endorse such violence, whether on the political left or the political right,” Potok said in his statement.

“The SPLC has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010 because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people – not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage,” he said.

Leaders of 40 national, state, and local LGBT advocacy organizations – including the DC LGBT Center — issued a joint statement Wednesday night condemning the shooting at the FRC building and expressing support for Johnson and his family and for his full and speedy recovery.

Officials with the D.C. LGBT Center said Corkins had been working as a volunteer at the center’s front desk on weekends for about six months and there were no signs of any problems associated with his work.

“I was shocked to hear that someone who has volunteered with the DC Center could be the cause of such a tragic act of violence,” the center’s executive director, David Mariner, said in a statement.

“No matter the circumstances, we condemn such violence in the strongest terms possible,” Mariner said. “We hope for a full and speedy recovery for the victim and our thoughts are with him and his family.”

But Mariner has declined to release additional details about Corkins’ background, adding to the mystery both within the LGBT community and the community at large about who Corkins is. It could not immediately be determined whether Corkins was gay.

The FBI arrest affidavit says Corkins lived with his parents in Herndon and drove silver 2004 Dodge Neon, which is registered under the names of his parents, to the East Falls Church Metro station on the day of the shooting. The affidavit says he took the Metro to D.C. and walked from a Metro station to the Family Research Council building.

“FBI special agents interviewed Jacqueline Shenise Corkins and Floyd Lee Corkins, who stated that they are the parents of Floyd Lee Corkins II,” the affidavit says. “They also stated that Corkins has been living at [their] residence up to the present date.”

The affidavit adds, “Corkins’ parents informed the FBI special agents that Corkins has strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner.”

News media reports have cited unnamed law enforcement sources as saying Corkins has a master’s degree. The Washington Post reported that a friend of Corkins during the time the two attended George Mason University described Corkins as “secretive and somewhat odd.”

The friend told the Post that Corkins “displayed an intense interest in the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche.”

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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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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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Comings & Goings

Hazen inducted into Cooperative Hall of Fame

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Paul Hazen

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 Paul Hazen on his being inducted into the 2022 Cooperative Hall of Fame.  On receiving the honor, he said, “I am very lucky to be given the opportunity to combine my work in international development with my volunteer cooperative development work in Washington DC.”

Hazen is executive director, U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) and has devoted his career to elevating the cooperative voice domestically and internationally. U.S. co-ops include Ace Hardware, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Sunkist, REI and the Associated Press. Hazen helped establish federal legislation promoting rural co-op development.  

Prior to joining OCDC, he was CEO of Washington, D.C.-based National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International. During his 25-year tenure with the organization, he held key positions, including chief operating officer, vice president of public policy, vice president of member services and director of consumer cooperatives.

He worked for Rep. Al Baldus (Wisc.). He was executive director of Rural Housing Inc. in Madison, Wisc., where he developed co-ops and affordable housing projects in rural communities. 

As a volunteer, Hazen formed the Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) with 12 congregations in D.C.  In 2020, CPA secured more than $18.7 million in contracts resulting in an investment of $13 million in D.C.-based small businesses owned by people of color.

Ben Finzel

Congratulations also to Ben Finzel, who was inducted into the National Capital Public Relations Hall of Fame. Upon receiving the honor, he said “To be recognized by your peers is wonderful; to be honored by them is amazing. I still can’t quite believe I have done enough to be worthy of this recognition, but I know enough to be thankful and appreciative of this high honor. Thank you PRSA National Capital Chapter for including me in such inspiring company; I will be forever grateful.”

Finzel is president of RENEWPR, a D.C.-based public affairs, communications consulting firm. In 2004, he helped launch FH Out Front, the first global LGBTQ communications practice at an international firm, Fleishman Hillard, and served as its first global chair. He started DC Family Communicators, a professional networking group for LGBTQ communications professionals. Finzel served on the Victory Campaign Board of the LGBTQ Victory Fund from 2007 to 2017.

His firm is currently celebrating its seventh year in business. To recognize that accomplishment, Finzel is launching an endowed scholarship at his alma mater, Texas Tech University. His business is certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

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