Calvin Lawrence, whose partner of 16 years, Joseph Cowart, was assaulted and robbed on a Metro Green Line train last month while at least one of the attackers shouted anti-gay slurs, said he and Cowart are grateful for an outpouring of community support since the Washington Blade first reported the incident last week.
Lawrence said he and Cowart’s struggle to cover medical expenses related to the ongoing treatment of serious head, back and leg injuries Cowart suffered during the Nov. 22 attack have been partially offset by people responding to a GoFundMe page he set up following a flurry of news media reports about the incident triggered by the Blade story.
“It’s been like amazingly huge support,” he said this week. “And we’re getting lots of letters. It’s overwhelming. It’s what gives us gas to get up and go through this.”
Lawrence, 48, has said the incident began shortly after 1 a.m. when he and Cowart, 43, boarded the Green Line train at the West Hyattsville station after visiting friends at a nearby location. He noted, as chronicled in a Metro Transit Police report, that Cowart became the target of as many as a dozen teenagers on the train car after Howard tried to stop one of the teens – a young woman – from assaulting and robbing a 14-year-old boy.
“By the time I got to him the girl had pounded him in the head,” Lawrence said in recounting how the girl attacked Cowart.
“And then all of a sudden out of nowhere 12 teenagers had him down on the ground kicking him in the head, stomping him in the chest,” Lawrence said. “I threw myself into the middle of it,” he said, adding, “I tried to get him up and they sole his iPad and iPhone and all of that.”
As the incident unfolded, Lawrence said he contacted the train operator over the emergency call box and urged him to stop the train and call police. But for reasons unknown at the time, the conductor continued to operate the train “as if nothing had happened,” Lawrence said.
Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel told the Blade the conductor immediately called Metro police and, according to other media reports, was advised to continue to the Shaw-Howard University station before halting the train because police could respond quickly to that location.
When contacted by the Blade, Stessel would neither confirm nor deny that the conductor was advised to continue to Shaw-Howard U station rather than stop the train sooner. He said Metro police were actively investigating the incident. He released a police report that listed the attack as a robbery with force and violence but did not list the incident as a hate crime.
According to Stessel, police would work closely with prosecutors if an arrest is made and at that time a decision would be made on whether to list the attack as a hate crime.
Lawrence has said Cowart’s recovery from the injuries he received in the Metro attack has been hampered by lingering effects of a stroke he suffered about 10 years ago. He said doctors were especially concerned that Cowart had been kicked in the head and face on the same side of his head where bleeding in his brain had occurred during the time of the stroke.
“They noticed the right side of his brain was a little swollen,” Lawrence said in telling of their discussion with doctors at Howard University Hospital, where Cowart was taken by ambulance after police arrived on the scene at the Metro station.
“And when we got the results back [from X-rays] they said the good news was as far as internal bleeding – we’re safe on that,” said Lawrence. He noted that Cowart was discharged from the hospital that night but the two have been traveling back and forth to follow-up doctors’ visits since that time. Among other things, Cowart is undergoing physical therapy.
Meanwhile, Metro Transit Police have released a photo of a young woman whom they describe as a “person of interest” in the case. Police have urged anyone with information about this person or of the incident to contact them at 202-962-2121.
Lawrence and Cowart’s GofundMe page can be reached at gofundme.com/dvec86tw.