December 16, 2015 at 4:23 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay couple attacked on Metro buoyed by support
Joseph Cowart, Calvin Lawrence, gay news, Washington Blade

Joseph Cowart was assaulted and robbed on a Metro Green Line train last month. (Photo courtesy Calvin Lawrence)

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.

Metro Transit Police on Wednesday night released these photos of someone they said is a person of interest in the case of the assault and robbery of a gay male couple on a Green Line Metro train about 1:15 a.m. on Nov. 22 somewhere between the West Hyattsville and Shaw-Howard University stations. Anyone with information about this person should call Metro police at 202-962-2121.

Metro Transit Police on Wednesday night released these photos of someone they said is a person of interest in the case of the assault and robbery of a gay male couple on a Green Line Metro train about 1:15 a.m. on Nov. 22 somewhere between the West Hyattsville and Shaw-Howard University stations. Anyone with information about this person should call Metro police at 202-962-2121.

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

1 Comment
  • Once again, we are given another crock of homophobic bullshot from Metro’s PR mouthpiece. That is not how law enforcement works. MTP and MPD should be fulling investigating this hate crime jointly, as well.

    Previously, Metro and MTP reportedly made what appeared to be wildly premature, prejudicial statements against the LGBT and disabled victims(s) of this hate crime.

    I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect, to most non-lawyers, it looks like a violation of the victims’ civil rights by Metro/MTP as well.

    In DC, victims of hate crimes have both criminal and civil remedies. But Metro reportedly went way out of its way to deny this hate crime was a hate crime– or even a ‘possible’ hate crime.

    That inexplicable denial of a hate crime appeared to be done intentionally to prejudice and impeach the victims’ account of the crime– as well as to use the ‘color’ of MTP’s police authority to deny the victims’ future claims under the ‘civil action’ component of DC’s hate crimes law, IMHO.

    Now Metro/MTP appears to be continuing a crime coverup while tacitly denying MTP’s biased policing. Metro is even implying it is USAO-DC’s responsibility as to whether MTP should investigate this as a hate crime.

    The fact that Metro and Metro Transit Police are NOT investigating this obvious hate crime AS a hate crime under DC law, tells us all we need to know about MTP’s and Metro’s institutional homophobia and transphobia.

    Metro’s new General Manager, Paul Weidefeld should publicly apologize to all LGBT and disabled riders of Metro.

    And MPT Chief Pavlik should be fired, so a new MTP police chief can begin to credibly end MTP’s anti-LGBT police bias.

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    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.**

    https://www.washingtonblade.com/2015/12/16/gay-couple-attacked-on-metro-buoyed-by-support/

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