August 7, 2017 at 5:52 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Okla. gay man sues town for allowing house to burn down

Randy Gamel-Medler, on left, with his partner Ralph and son. (Photo courtesy Freedom Oklahoma)

A gay man in Oklahoma raising a black son has filed a civil rights lawsuit against his local sheriff for allegedly allowing fellow residents to burn down his home in an attempt to run him out of town.

The complaint, filed on Aug. 3 and made public Sunday, was filed in federal court by Randy Gamel-Medler, who formerly resided in Blaine County, Okla.

The town clerk, Gamel-Medler lived in the City of Hitchcock with his seven-year-old adopted son whom he brought there in August 2016. The city’s population is just 121, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Gamel-Medler alleges he faced continual threats of violence based on anti-gay bias and racial enmity after moving his son to Blaine County because of his sexual orientation and his son’s race. These threats came before an apparent effort by locals to burn down his home as they looked on upon its destruction.

According to the lawsuit, Meradith Norris, a trustee of the Town of Hitchcock, upon learning Gamel Medler had a black son, said at a town meeting in the presence of city officials, “What’s going to happen when your house burns down and we don’t send out the fire trucks?” Afterwards, Gamel-Medler filed a police report with the former sheriff of Blaine County, but no action was taken, the lawsuit says.

Months later, when Gamel-Medler was performing his duties on the road as town clerk, he was allegedly assaulted by convicted felon Jonita Pauls Jacks who came up to Gamel-Medler’s truck and tried to enter it. When Gamel-Medler locked the door, Jonita Pauls Jacks started shaking the truck, called him a “fucking queer,” and said, “I’m going to grab your little boy, rip his nigger head off, and shit down his throat,'” the lawsuit says.

Afterwards, Gamel-Medler went to the office of Blaine County Sheriff Tony Almaguer to file a report, but the sheriff allegedly refused to take it and told him, “That’s just how they how they are out there and it’s free speech.”

Other actions were allegedly taken against Gamel-Medler. They include gravel being thrown at his home by a townsperson on a motorcycle; the erection near a post office where Gamel-Medler and his son walked of a three-by-four-foot sign reading “The town clerk is a fucking queer”; and a physical altercation after a townsperson ran Gamel-Medler and his friend from the road.

Deputy Sheriff Bob Kissimee allegedly took Gamel-Medler aside after the last incident and warned him, “These people are serious. They’re going to kill you, they’re going to kill your son and they’re going to burn your house down.”

Other town authorities, including Hitchcock Mayor Rick Edsall, took no action, the lawsuit says. Blaine County Undersheriff Dave Robertson allegedly wouldn’t allow the filing of a police report after the incident.

In May 2017, Gamel-Medler, who had just sent his son to a neighbor’s house, heard a noise in his garage like glass breaking and called the sheriff’s office to report a burglary, then saw a fire in his garage and called for the fire department. Although Gamel-Medler lived one block from the fire station, the fire department allegedly did nothing for an extended period of time, resulting in his home burning to the ground.

While Gamel-Medler’s house was burning, three townspeople — Patsy Meier, Kenny Meier and Joey Pauls — allegedly watched nearby. The mayor and his family were allegedly watching from their lawn chairs, the lawsuit alleges. A person believed to be the fire marshal allegedly told Gamel-Medler the recorded minutes from a town council meeting in which officials threatened to burn his house down were in his home, adding words to the effect of, “I guess that takes care of that.”

The named defendants in the lawsuit are Blaine County Sheriff Tony Almaguer, Under Sheriff David Robertson, Edsall and townspeople that allegedly threatened Gamel-Medler. The lawsuit calls on the court to assess damages Gamel-Medler incurred as a result of the threats and loss of his home as well as punitive damages against the defendants.

Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said in a statement the threats to Gamel-Medler and the loss of his home demonstrate “after years of progress, crimes of bias still exist.”

“The allegations in Hitchcock are horrific, and show the intersection of hate aimed at both the African-American and LGBTQ communities,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said the threats and property loss Gamel-Medler faced also demonstrate the need for Oklahoma to pass legislation against hate crimes. A federal hate crimes law, the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, is in place as a result of former President Obama signing the measure in 2009.

The lawsuit asserts federal court is the appropriate jurisdiction for adjudication under the Fourteenth Amendment because of a 1983 federal law making local officials liable for denying civil rights to U.S. citizens. The lawsuit also makes claims under other federal laws against conspiracy and denial of equal protection of the law.

Gamel-Medler also asserts claims under state law against assault, battery, destruction of property and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Representing Gamel-Medler in the lawsuit is Mark Hammons, an attorney with the Oklahoma City-based Hammons, Gowens, Hurst & Associates.

“The horrific treatment of this man and his child are a terrible reminder of how hatred and bigotry feed off of each other,” Hammons said. “I hope this lawsuit will bring justice for him and social awareness for everyone.”

The sheriff’s office for Blaine County referred Blade inquiries on the lawsuit to Blaine County District Attorney Mike Fields, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also condemning the acts and supporting the lawsuit in a statement was Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“No family should live in fear or have to endure harassment and threats based on racism and homophobia,” Minter said. “We must hold those government officials, members of law enforcement, and others accountable.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Everyone in the town who participated in this grotesque prejudicial behavior toward this poor family deserves prison.

    • That means alot of Trump Supporters would be going to jail!

      Notice the Fake POTUS has been silent on this and AG Sessions has cast a blind eye! Had this happened under Obama, he would have spoken up immediately to condemn it and his AG would be conducting an investigation! Want to put conservatives in power? Then this is what you get!

    • Prison for what? Inaction as a private citizen? Are you really recommending that?

      And yet, threats of blowing up a pizza joint for going against homosexual orthodoxy goes unpunished.

  • I think I would have included the fire marshal and the entire fire department, had I been him.

  • Where can we donate? Has the family set up a GoFundMe? They may have 100 people in their town who’ve shown them hate, but I want to be just one rando on the internet that shows the popular majority of Americans know Love is Love is Love is Love and #lovetrumpshate

  • This father and his child were no threat to anyone. Ironic that the townspeople were the despicable trash they wanted this little family to be to justify being cruel and inhuman.

    • By all accounts, he got along well with the town, enough to gain enough influence to work his way up to being town clerk. How does that happen with “despicable trash” running the town?

      Something doesn’t add up with his story.

  • How proud and pious these townspeople and their Sheriff must feel over this act of arson. Fundamentalists and evangelicals once flaunted as their motto WWJD — what would Jesus do — to claim that it was how they made decisions when faced with alternatives, temptations, uncertainty, etc. They stopped using that some years ago, and the reasons are pretty obvious. I do not speak for Jesus and never would assume that I had that right. But, in this situation, I think it is a pretty safe bet as to what he would not have done. He would not have burned down a house in a show of bigotry. In his life on earth, Jesus lived among the those that society looked down on and ostracized. He associated wth the lower classes, and from those classes, he selected his apostles. He rejected no one, nor did he limit those with whom he came into contact or those he helped. He performed a miracle on behalf of an individual seen by everyone as a sinner. He treated everyone with whom he came into contact with love and respect, even those who were conspiring to kill him (and he forgave them before dying). But, today, some do horrible, hateful and bigoted things and try to justify it by invoking his name or misusing the church that bears his name to try and justify their actions. Their is no justification for this act, and saying the town is filled is populated by good, hardworking citizens or good Christian people is not believable. Good peoplle would not do this, and good people would not allow their town to become a place in which it could be done and not even written up as a crime. This is shocking and beyond the pale. In every other time, the Justice Department would have dispatched staff to the town to investigate the matter and take actions to hold the appropriate individuals responsible for these crimes. But, I guess that will not happen in these cases any longer, and that compounds the tragedy and the outrage!

  • I think liberals, POC, and members of the LGBTQ community need to make a road trip to Hitchcock.

  • I have a similar complaint against my local law enforcement and government officials, I not only lost my home, business and property but using chemicals as a weapon, illegally applied on my property without my permission nearly cost me my life.

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