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D.C. double murder doesn’t appear to be hate crime

Prosecutors say dispute over money triggered shooting deaths



shooting deaths, gay news, Washington Blade
shooting deaths, gay news, Washington Blade, double murder

Prosecutors say dispute over money triggered shooting deaths.

A D.C. police homicide detective testified at a Superior Court hearing on Tuesday that an argument over money appears to be what prompted defendant David Bright, 29, to allegedly shoot two gay men to death on Feb. 18 inside a group house at 509 58th St., N.E. where the three lived.

Det. Marvin Washington testified that an eyewitness to the incident who also lived in the house told police that Bright shot Clifton David Francis, 51, and David Aumon Watkins Jr., 45, multiple times while in a rage and acting as if he were “crazy.”

Police and prosecutors have not publicly identified the two victims as gay. But law enforcement sources familiar with the case have told the Washington Blade the two were gay and that Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, supervisor of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, and Officer Zunnobia Hakir, a member of the LGBT unit, were called to the scene on the day of the murders.

“This case remains under investigation,” said William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case. “However, based on the charging documents and court testimony, you can state that there are no allegations that this is a hate crime,” said Miller, who noted that the incident “is believed to involve a dispute over money.”

At the time of his arrest, police charged Bright with first-degree murder while armed.

At the preliminary hearing on Tuesday, Det. Washington appeared to confirm that at least one of the two victims was gay. In response to a question by defense attorney Dominique Winters, he said that the eyewitness to the murders had been in a “romantic relationship” with one of the two victims.

Washington answered the question after Judge Jose Lopez overruled an objection by Assistant U.S. Attorney Magdalena Acevedo, the lead prosecutor in the case, who said the line of questioning was not germane to the case.

Although Washington was careful not to disclose the witness’s gender, referring to the person as Witness 1 or “it,” both Winters and Lopez at various times referred to the witness as “he” or “him.” A law enforcement source also confirmed that Witness 1 is a man.

In her arguments urging Lopez to rule that there was insufficient evidence to find probable cause that the case should proceed to a full trial, Winters suggested that Witness 1 was “biased” against her client and biased toward the decedents because of his romantic relationship with one of the decedents.

Prosecutor Acevedo took strong exception to the argument that Witness 1 was biased. She pointed to Washington’s testimony that Witness 1 provided police with a detailed account of how he saw Bright point his handgun and shoot Francis in the living room of the house.

A police arrest affidavit says Witness 1 told police that while shooting Francis, Bright yelled, “This will teach you.” The affidavit says Witness 1 told police he heard the other victim, who was later identified as David Watkins, yelling, “Day-Day, what are you doing? You’re crazy.”

The witness and others who know Bright said Bright went by the nickname Day-Day.

According to the arrest affidavit, Witness 1 recounted that he then heard several more gunshots that he assumed were fired at Watkins.

Police have said Francis, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the body and head, was pronounced dead at the scene. Watkins, who suffered from at least one gunshot wound to the body, was taken to Prince George’s Hospital, where he later died, the affidavit says.

Washington also testified that police found 22 shell casings at the house where the incident occurred and later matched them to a handgun that they recovered from Bright at the time of his arrest.

In addition, in response to questioning by Acevedo, Washington testified that another witness who has family ties with Bright told police that Bright telephoned the witness, listed as Witness 2, and confessed to having shot and killed two men at the 58th Street address.

Based on this and other information provided by police, Lopez ruled that probable cause exists that Bright committed the murders and the case should advance to trial. He denied a request by Winters that Bright be released to a halfway house, saying evidence presented by police and prosecutors indicates that Bright would be a danger to the community. He then scheduled a felony status hearing for June 10.

Prior to Washington’s testimony, Acevedo and Winters told Lopez that Bright had rejected a plea bargain offer from prosecutors. The two did not provide details of the offer, but Acevedo said it involved requiring that Bright accept a sentence of at least 20 years in jail.

At the start of the April 5 hearing, Bright was escorted into the courtroom with what appeared to be white bandages placed over the top of his head. Neither his attorney nor prosecutor Acevedo disclosed what happened to cause the apparent injury.

Shortly after entering the courtroom at the start of the hearing guards escorted Bright out of the courtroom before he returned about five minutes later. Minutes after that he began shouting, “People are trying to kill me. People don’t know what happened.”

Guards responded by hastily escorting Bright back out of the courtroom. About 10 minutes later, after the proceeding was put on hold, Bright was escorted back into the courtroom.

“I apologize, your honor,” Bright said. “That’s OK,” Judge Lopez responded.

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Missing gay man found ‘alive and well’

Police say Richard ‘Rick’ Woods found in good health



Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man, was found alive and well.

D.C. police announced on Friday that Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man who police said was reported missing and last seen on July 14, has been located. But the announcement doesn’t provide information on where he was found or why he went missing.

Friends who know Woods say he operated for many years an antique wood furniture restoration business in various locations in D.C. The most recent location of his business, friends said, was in Georgetown a short distance from where police said he was last seen on the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.

“MPD does not publicly disclose the circumstances surrounding a missing person and how they are found, however we do release their flyer as well as a notification when they are located,” said D.C. police spokesperson Brianna Burch. “Mr. Woods was found in good health,” Burch told the Blade.

Police sought help from the public in their initial announcement that Woods was missing. The announcement said he was reported missing to police on Friday, July 23.

Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and LGBTQ rights advocate John Fanning, who said he has been friends with Woods for many years, said he was delighted to hear Woods was found in good condition.

“Rick is known by many in our community,” Fanning told the Blade at the time Woods was reported missing. Fanning said he and others who know Woods stand ready to provide support for him should he be in need of such support.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Woods for comment.

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Some D.C. gay bars to require proof of COVID vaccination

Action prompted by mayor’s order reinstating masks indoors



Adams Morgan’s A League of Her Own is among the area queer bars requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

At least four D.C. gay bars announced this week on social media that they will require patrons to show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for being admitted to the bars.

They include the Logan Circle area gay bars Number Nine and Trade, which are operated by the same co-owners, and the Adams Morgan gay sports bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, which are also operated by the same owner and share the same building.

The four bars, which also offer dining service, announced their proof of vaccination requirement shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday issued a new order reinstating the city’s requirement that facial masks be worn inside all businesses and other public establishments.

The mayor’s order applies to all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two. It was scheduled to take effect 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31.

At a July 29 news conference, Bowser pointed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued two days earlier recommending that fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in places where transmission of the coronavirus is considered “substantial” or “high.”

The mayor said that, at the advice of her public health experts, she decided to issue the new order to help curtail the rising number of COVID cases in D.C. over the past month or more due to the rapid spread of the virus’s delta variant, which is surging throughout the nation. Like other parts of the country, Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbit said people who are unvaccinated in D.C. make up nearly all of the newly infected cases.

“I know D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines, and they will embrace this,” Bowser said in referring to the new mask requirement.

The four-page order released by the mayor’s office, similar to the city’s earlier mask requirements, allows indoor patrons of restaurants and bars to remove their masks while “actively” eating or drinking.

But some representatives of restaurants and bars have pointed out that other jurisdictions, including Maryland and Virginia, have followed the CDC’s initial policy of making mask wearing a recommendation rather than a requirement.

“Mayor Bowser’s announcement that nightlife hospitality patrons must wear a mask indoors when not ‘actively eating or drinking’ renders the reinstated mandate essentially unenforceable and results in the rule being reduced to a largely theatrical requirement,” said Mark Lee, director of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a local trade association representing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other nightlife related businesses.

“The greatest disappointment for many venue operators and staff, however, is that the mayor’s decision does not allow an option for establishments to admit only fully vaccinated patrons and be exempt from the mandate, as a number of other jurisdictions across the country have done,” Lee said.

John Guggenmos, co-owner of the bars Trade and Number Nine, told the Washington Blade he and his co-owners adopted the proof of vaccination policy as an added means of protecting the safety of both patrons and employees of the two bars.

“We’re hopeful that this will be in effect for just a few weeks or a month or two,” Guggenmos said. “Our patrons have always been very supportive,” he said in referring to the city’s public health directives last year and early this year in which masks were required up until May of this year.

Guggenmos said Trade and Number Nine will allow an alternative to the vaccination requirement if patrons provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the previous three days of their admission to the bars.

In its social media postings, Pitchers and A League of Her Own said their proof of vaccination requirement was based on the concern for the health of their patrons and staff.

“We will require proof a COVID vaccination until further notice at Pitchers/ALOHO and masks per the mayor,” a Facebook posting says. “We take guidelines and the health of our patrons and staff very seriously. We will accept a picture or hard copy of your COVID vaccination card,” it says. “No exceptions, no arguing, no talking to the manager.”

Tammy Truong, owner of the gay bar Uproar Lounge at 639 Florida Ave., N.W., told the Blade the bar has no immediate plans to require proof of vaccination as a requirement for admission, but Uproar will fully comply with the mayor’s order requiring indoor masks.

Justin Parker, co-owner of the nearby gay bar The Dirty Goose at 913 U St., N.W., told the Blade he and his staff decided on Friday to also put in place a requirment that patrons show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past five days. He said a 5-day window for the COVID test, which the CDC allows in some cases, was chosen rather than three a requirement to accomodate people who may not be able to get tested during weekends.

Owners of other D.C. gay bars couldn’t immeidately be reached. But the Blade could not find any announcements by the other gay bars as of Friday afternoon that they planed to put in place a proof of vaccination requiremenet. 

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Va. school guidelines for transgender students

Christian Action Network and other conservative groups filed suit



Connor Climo, gay news, Washington Blade

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students that are to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The VDOE introduced the policies in March to better protect and affirm trans and non-binary students in schools, considering they are more likely to face discrimination and harassment from their peers and students. The directives would require Virginia schools to allow them to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Several conservative organizations, including the Christian Action Network, and families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools had sought to overturn the VDOE’s policies. The groups cited their need to protect their right to free speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Challenging the enactment of non-binary and trans-inclusive school policies in Virginia is not a new occurence. 

Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County teacher, was suspended in May after stating he would not use trans students’ preferred pronouns. Circuit Judge James E. Plowman, Jr., who invoked Pickering v. Board of Education,  a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a teacher that stated they have the right to provide commentary on issues of public importance without being dismissed from their position, reinstated Cross after he filed a lawsuit,  

Equality Virginia on Tuesday a statement celebrated what they described as “a win for Virginia schools and students.”

“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”

Equality Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 other organizations and school board leaders across the state filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the lawsuit.

The brief’s arguments included references to historic lawsuits like Brown v. Board of Education and Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board that specifically addressed inequalities in schools for minority students.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a win for LGBTQ rights advocates in education and their respective students, there still remains a final barrier to ensure that the VDOE’s policies are sanctioned in the fall. 

“The dismissal clears one statewide hurdle for the guidelines and limits future challenges,” reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “But it leaves the fight to continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the start of the school year.”

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