July 31, 2015 at 5:07 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Slashing of gay Hill staffer likely not a hate crime
Ben Fishel, gay news, Washington Blade

Ben Fishel was slashed by an unknown assailant on July 19. (Photo courtesy of Fishel)

Gay congressional staffer Ben Fishel says he has no reason to believe the unidentified man who grabbed him by the neck from behind in a choke hold and then slashed his face about 2 a.m. on Sunday, July 19, targeted him because he’s gay.

But the attack that unfolded on the front steps of Fishel’s condo building in the 2100 block of 11th Street, N.W., after he had just walked home from the nearby Town gay nightclub, has become a mystery to D.C. police and people who learned about the incident from reports this week by Fox 5 News and WTOP Radio.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think I could recognize him if I saw him again,” Fishel told the Washington Blade, when asked about the person who attacked him.

Fishel said that while the male attacker did not make any reference to his sexual orientation and muttered something along the lines of “You ain’t shit,” he also did not attempt to take Fishel’s wallet or cell phone.

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said the incident remains under investigation and that anyone who has information that could be helpful in identifying a suspect should call police at 202-727-9099.

Fishel told the Blade that one of the police officers investigating the case said police have obtained video from security cameras at a Crown gas station at Vermont and Florida avenues, N.W., where Fishel thinks he first crossed paths with the attacker, and from another condo building on the block where the attack took place.

He said the officer told him that due to possible malfunctioning of the camera, there was little that could be seen from the video taken at the Crown station. According to Fishel, the officer showed him the video from the condo building. Fishel said he could recognize himself and someone appearing to be following him, but the images of their faces were too blurred to be recognizable.

Police so far have not released the video for public viewing as they often do in other assault cases.

“We are unable to comment on evidence, as a matter of policy,” Crump told the Blade. “We only release video for the purposes of aiding in the investigation and the video must be of sufficient quality to aid in the investigation,” she said.

Fishel said the incident happened shortly after he and his husband left Town nightclub, which is located at 8th and U streets, N.W., shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday morning, July 19. He said the two walked together but separated after Fishel decided to stop in a convenience store at the Crown gas station and his husband chose to walk directly home.

He said he believes the man that eventually attacked him approached him outside the convenience store to ask if he would buy him a pack of cigarettes. Fishel said he declined the request and walked away without paying much attention to the man’s appearance other than that he was “huge.”

When he reached the steps of the building where he lives the attacker grabbed him tightly around the neck from behind.

“I may have pushed back,” said Fishel. “I was trying to break away because I could hardly breathe.”

He remembers being cut at least two times on the lower face by what he thinks was a box cutter, Fishel said. He said he didn’t realize the seriousness of the slashing until the attacker released him and ran away and Fishel entered his apartment and discovered his face was bleeding. His husband, who was home, called 911 and Fishel was taken to nearby Howard University Hospital, where he received at least 20 stitches for two deep wounds.

Fishel works as deputy chief of staff and communications director for U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). Fishel and his husband, Andrew Brady, were in the news last September when the New York Times published a “celebrations” story about their Sept. 27 wedding alongside scenic Lake George in upstate New York.

The Times and other media reported that Fishel is the grandson of the late Andy Rooney, the longtime political commentator on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.”

Fishel said he talked to Fox News about the incident a little over a week after it happened because he thinks the public should know about this type of violent crime in an area where he didn’t expect such a thing to happen.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • **
    “We are unable to comment on evidence, as a matter of policy,” Crump told the Blade. “
    What another CROCK of crap from Bowser’s MPD PR-spinners! MPD ‘comments’ about and selectively leaks news about crime case evidence all the time. Just read or watch the news.

    So… why another big lie from Bowser’s secret police again– involving a brutal crime against a gay man? Fishel and his husband could have been easily stalked/followed from Town– just two blocks f/ the Crown– where they then parted company (providing the suspected perpetrator with opportunity).

    The perp’s words demonstrated bias/hate. And the fact that nothing was taken should’ve been cause enough to call GLLU in on the case immediately.

    Was MPD’s Form 251 incident report even checked-off for a possible hate/bias crime– as it should have been?

    And did we hear of this possible hate crime case from Mayor Bowser? Or from Chief Lanier? Or from A/C Groomes? Or even from GLLU???

    The Bowser Administration’s apparent contempt for LGBTQ public safety is inexplicable.

    The appearance of hate crime coverups by MPD can only cause us to question whether there is intentional corruption, coverups and anti-LGBT bias at the highest levels of DC’s government.

    Mayor Bowser ought to act. So should Council.
    ** CORRUPTION **
    noun cor·rup·tion kə-ˈrəp-shən

    : dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)

    • I’ll just add that the Blade’s headline here is NOT accurate and should be corrected– given the totality of facts and circumstances it has reported.

      A hate crime perpetrator does not have to be heard calling any protected class under DC’s hate crimes law an obvious epithet or derogatory name to demonstrate a possible hate/bias crime motive.

      The perp’s words were a clear indicator of animus.

      Then, the fact that the victim and his husband walked out of (1) Town together, (2) then they walked together and then parted company at Crown, a couple of blocks away– where the suspected perp then approached the victim strongly suggests that the perp thought Fishel was gay.

      All of that doesn’t necessarily PROVE a hate crime. But it should have easily been deemed enough evidence of a *possible* hate crime, targeting a gay man. That was worthy of further investigation by MPD for hate/bias, as well as a warning to the LGBTQ community.

    • If you two mental midgets bothered to read the article, even the victim states he doubts it was because he’s gay, but because he refused to buy the guy a pack of cigarettes.

  • Whoever did this I hope they’re caught and soon!

  • You’re the one that obviously didn’t read the article, BS. You’re misquoting Mr. Fishel, aren’t you? I’m wondering why that is.

    I’m guessing that you’ve never read DC’s hate crimes law, as well. Because you miss the point entirely. Or maybe you get the point all too well, huh?

    If a police department refuses to adequately investigate for a probable hate crime, then of course, they are NOT going to FIND evidence of a hate crime.

    And if MPD wants to cover up a violent crime incident, it simply doesn’t have to report all the details of the crime completely.

    One Fox5 news report indicated- INCREDIBLY- that two MPD cops at HUH actually had a difference of opinion, that Mr. Fishel overheard, as to whether the assault was a misdemeanor or a felony. That is outrageous.

    So MPD’s attempt to diminish and coverup this crime appears to have been perpetrated right from the start.

    I suspect MPD has failed to do a number of things in this case so as to further their crime coverup against this victim and our community.

    MPD’s refusal to quickly publicize the video they showed to to Mr. Fishel is just ONE of a number of examples of MPD’s corruption of this case.

    I encourage everyone to go to Fox 5 News and see the two news reports there, as well. The second one, in particular, suggests a widespread MPD COVERUP of this crime.

    BTW, Mr. Fishel’s instincts regarding MPD are spot on. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for going public with his story, too.

    Having been on the receiving end of more than a few MPD lies– some from the highest levels of MPD, I can tell you they don’t lie very well — nor very convincingly.

    LGBT folks in Shaw– and probably elsewhere in DC– should be vigilant and careful. Buddy up when walking at night. Try to know who’s behind you at all times– and walk assertively, like you’re paying attention to your surroundings.

    No need to be paranoid. Just watch out for one another. Because it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Bowser’s MPD bosses could care less about LGBTQ public safety in DC.

    I gotta run. More later, maybe.

    But if folks want to see how corruption among a few at MPD can easily coverup crimes, just google…

    “dc police fail rape victims video”

    Then watch the Human Rights Watch YouTube video from two years ago. The victims there will give you a pretty good idea of how MPD’s brand of selective crime coverup works.

    @Typical DC BS -> Brian’s Ions • 3 hours ago

    If you two mental midgets bothered to read the article, even the victim states he doubts it was because he’s gay, but because he refused to buy the guy a pack of cigarettes.

    • Despite MPD’s attempted coverup, what’s been reported
      in the media about this case?

      1) a gay victim who had just

      2) exited a well-known gay dance club (Town), with

      3) his gay husband (4 blocks from their home), and some

      4) gay friends (per Fox5 news)

      5) who was then stalked/followed after he broke off from his husband to go briefly to a convenience store, and

      6) at his doorstep, was violently slashed on his face with hate/ biased words (‘You ain’t sh*t.’)

      7) with inexplicable violence that apparently lacked any other credible motive

      — But that wasn’t cause enough for MPD to investigate this crime further as a hate/bias crime?

      — That wasn’t cause enough for MPD to issue and immediate MPD email crime alert?

      — That wasn’t cause enough for MPD to call in GLLU officers to assist, followup and communicate with area LGBT businesses?

      — That wasn’t cause enough for MPD to alert the Blade and Metro Weekly so other patrons of Town, Nellies and the 9:30 Club might know and take precautions?

      — That wasn’t cause enough for MPD to canvas all 4 blocks from Town to 11th street for eyewitnesses and more videos?

      — That wasn’t cause enough for MPD to release a video they intentionally withheld from the public showing the perpetrator?

      The totality of the above reported facts in this case should have triggered at MPD– and by MPD officers– a robust and much wider investigation for a possible hate/bias crime motive..

      — First, Mr. Fishel should have been advised that MPD GLLU-trained officers could be present for his report.

      — MPD responding officers should have noted the LGBT-related bias *POSSIBILITY* on MPD’s *PD-251 Incident Report*– both in its narrative section –AND– on its Hate/Bias Checkoff Box.

      — Mr. Fishel should have been advised that he could pick up a copy of his 251 Incident Report for Fishel’s (or his counsel’s) review at a local MPD District Station.

      –MPD GLLU officers should have alerted Town and the 9:30 Club of the crime– and they should have sought witnesses and any additional video that their security cameras may have caught.

      — Likewise, GLLU should have made routine LIAISON contact to alert Nellie’s management of the crime.

      • You have an overactive imagination. Try taking your medication. Being gay DOES NOT give you special rights. Get over it.

        • ‘Special Rights’ — eh? Do tell us all about it, BS

          • The whole “hate crime” nonsense is a joke. A crime is a crime. Special designations are unnecessary. Sorry you think anytime a gay person is a victim, we need to bring in “special” services and punishments.
            Maybe you should be worried about the “Gentle giant” who attacked this man who didn’t buy him a pack odd smokes when he begged nicely, especially since that is what the victim said was a more likely cause than being gay.

          • Well hate crimes law is not a ‘joke’ in 40-some states and DC, Mr. BS. It’s law. There’s a federal law, too.

            What don’t you get about that? Do you think police should just ignore enforcement of whatever laws they please?
            The whole “hate crime” nonsense is a joke.

          • Kind of like Obama does – ignores laws he doesn’t like?
            Please – the whole “hate crimes” penalties are a joke. Special circumstances? Please. Gay people should be treated EXACTLY the same as everybody else – no better and no worse.

          • Thanks. It’s always good to have a clear line of sight to bigotry.

          • Yes, demanding to be treated like a special snowflake is the very definition of bigotry, fool.

  • Why is everyone ignoring the 800 pound Gorilla in the room? I believe it was a hate crime. Not because he is gay, but because he is White. White people in this town are being set upon by all sorts of trouble just because they are White and living in formerly Black or Hispanic neighborhoods. Yet, the liberal White community, and the DC Police Force refuse to even admit that Whites are being preyed upon in this city. The Equal Housing Opportunity laws apply to EVERYONE. We have as much a right to live in the city as does everyone else.

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