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Transgender woman stabbed repeatedly in D.C. attack

Police refuse to confirm reports of arrest of suspect

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Bree Wallace (Photo courtesy of Ruby Corado.)

D.C. police have declined to confirm whether they have arrested a male suspect for allegedly stabbing a 29-year-old transgender woman as many as 40 times in an abandoned house in Southeast Washington around 1 a.m. on Friday morning.

A police report, which lists the incident as an assault with intent to kill, says the stabbing took place at 3038 Stanton Road, S.E. It says the victim, Bree Wallace, managed to run several blocks to the apartment building where she lives on the 2400 block of 15th Place, S.E., before collapsing on the street.

The report says Wallace was taken to Prince George’s Hospital Center in nearby Cheverly, Md., where she was being treated for multiple stab wounds to the back and chest and severe lacerations to both of her hands.

“I don’t know why he did it,” Wallace told the Washington Blade in a phone interview on Sunday from her hospital bed. “He didn’t say anything,” she said in recounting how the incident took place after she recently met the attacker in the neighborhood near where she lives.

“The investigation has revealed that this assault with intent to kill was neither random nor a hate crime,” police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump told the Blade in an e-mail.

But Crump and other police officials have declined to confirm Wallace’s assertion that police told her father that they arrested a suspect in the case late Friday or early Saturday.

“They told my dad,” said Wallace, in recounting to the Blade that a police investigator informed her father that an arrest had been made.

Trans activists Earline Budd and Ruby Corado, who know Wallace, said she told them she and the attacker had known each other casually prior to the attack. Corado said Wallace told her the attacker sent her a text message asking to meet up with her at the location where the stabbing occurred.

Corado told the Blade that Wallace informed her that at some point she declined the man’s request that the two become romantically or sexually involved. Corado said Wallace was a client at Casa Ruby, an LGBT community center with outreach to the Latino and trans communities for which Corado serves as director.

Wallace was also among 12 contestants chosen as a trans “calendar girl” in a fundraising contest sponsored by Casa Ruby as part of a Casa Ruby program to help train clients as makeup artists, Corado said.

Budd said the victim had also been one of her clients at Transgender Health Empowerment, a trans advocacy and services organization that recently has curtailed its operations due to financial problems.

“Complainant 1 [the victim] stated that she had met with Suspect 1 at the event location to buy a cigarette,” the police report says. “According to Complainant 1, Suspect 1 then suddenly started to stab Complainant 1 for unknown reasons,” the report says.

Budd and Corado said Wallace also informed them that police told her father that the suspect had been arrested and was expected to appear for a presentment or arraignment at D.C. Superior Court on Saturday during the court’s weekend proceedings.

“She knows who this guy is and she told police who he is,” Budd told the Blade. “I’m puzzled over why the police won’t confirm whether they made this arrest or not.”

Crump didn’t respond to a Blade inquiry about whether an arrest had been made.

Sgt. Matt Mahl, supervisor of the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, said the unit had been briefed on the incident but said he wasn’t authorized to comment further. He said the incident was still under investigation.

Budd expressed concern that police officials had not issued a public announcement about the incident over the weekend to alert the media and the community that a trans person had been attacked in what Budd called another in a string of violent anti-trans attacks that have occurred in the city over the past several years.

“I just want to make sure that it gets out there, that this attack happened and how brutal it was,” Budd said. “And also the message needs to be sent that transgender folks need to be very, very cautious in terms of their surroundings, who they are talking to and especially in the nighttime hours.”

Budd and Corado said Wallace told them doctors informed her that she had been stabbed about 40 times.

D.C. property records show that the unoccupied house where the stabbing took place was sold for $100,000 in January to a company called the Kamyab Group based in Fredericksburg, Va.

Wallace said she and the attacker entered the house through a door that was detached from its hinges.

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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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Local

Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate

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(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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