Little Progress in Gay-Bashing Case Beating victim discovers key evidence, arrests don't follow

Hate Is Enough: Metrokin becomes unintentional “poster child” for the cause.
Darrow Montgomery

Early on July 13, Todd Metrokin and two of his friends figured they’d wind up a night at Town, the dance club, with a jumbo slice in Adams Morgan. At a joint around the corner from their friends’ apartment, Metrokin bought two slices and then quickly realized he’d gone overboard. He offered his second slice to a man standing nearby and, after taking it, the man said loudly into his cell phone: “Some faggot just gave me a slice of pizza.”

Metrokin, who is gay, didn’t hear it, although one of his friends did. They kept walking, stopping to eat on the stoop of their friends’ apartment building in the 1800 block of Kalorama Road NW, about half a block from the pizza place on 18th Street. This was about 4 a.m. Within five minutes of the pizza exchange, the man with the phone and at least four of his buddies showed up.

According to the police report, “the suspects began insulting the complainants by yelling homophobic epithets.” They then “began punching, kicking and assaulting” all three men, the report says.

Aaron, one of the victims who did not want his last name printed, says they were yelling “fucking faggots” during the melee. Metrokin got the worst of it: 10 stitches under his left eye and a partial footprint under his right where someone stomped on his face.

Clocked early, he remembers few details that will help police find his attackers; they are all described in the report as black men between the ages of 17 and 21.Yet Metrokin came away with a key piece of evidence.

Upon his release from George Washington University Hospital, someone handed him his bloody clothes and a cell phone. After he got home, groggy from pain meds, he realized the phone wasn’t his. He flipped it open and recognized the face of one of the assailants. He called police right away and was told someone would come pick it up. Four days later and after two more phone calls to the police department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, someone did.

On July 23, 10 days after the attack, Metrokin says he called the unit again because he had not heard from the police. He was told Det. C. Michelle McConnell in the 3rd District was handling his case. The following day, Metrokin says, McConnell called him and said she had just collected the phone, “citing training and work schedule as her excuse for the delay in retrieving” it. McConnell, reached by phone during her midnight shift, declined comment and hung up when asked about progress on the case.

According to Metrokin, she is “close” to obtaining information from the phone.

“It’s unfortunate” that Metrokin talks publicly about the evidence, says acting Lt. Brett Parson, head of the police department’s special liaison units, who was called in on the night of the attack. Since it’s an active investigation, he says, discussing the details could tip off the suspects; also, he says, the ongoing nature of the case means police can’t and shouldn’t comment on its progress.

Parson says he does understand Metrokin’s frustration. “If I were a victim of a crime like that and the case was not closed even after one day, that would be taking too long,” he says.

Metrokin, 39 and a 16-year resident of the U Street neighborhood, grew up in Alaska and came out as a college student at Radford University in Virginia. This was in the late ’80s, during the AIDS crisis and ACT UP. He has been an activist on and off since then and has volunteered with the Center, the “Home for GLBT in Metro DC.” He has also been attacked before, during college, at an alternative dance party his college paper mischaracterized as “Gay Night.”

Acceptance has advanced a great deal since those days, says Metrokin, but not quite enough. Even “in this little bubble of the Northwest, where everything seems fine and safe,” he says, people are still attacked or mugged because they are gay “or because they look gay.”

Parson says that’s true and that it’s also true that gay-bashing is under-reported to the police. Chris Farris, a founder of the performance group Crack and the author of a post on thenewgay.net about Metrokin’s trauma, agrees. He says, “I wrote the piece because I feel I have heard this story so many times in the past year.”

Farris goes on to relate an attack on a friend “who got beat in my [D.C.] neighborhood and beat bad while walking home from a gay bar.…His head was pushed into the sidewalk so hard he had to go to the doctor the next day to get gravel dug out of his cheek.” Farris, via thenewgay blog, recently launched a reporting effort, pushing people to e-mail the details of assaults to stophate@thenewgay.net.

“It was not my goal to become a poster child” for hate crimes against gay people, says Metrokin, who works in advertising at a PR firm downtown. “But here I am.”

The attack fits D.C.’s criteria as a hate-motivated crime, says Parson. It’s one of 16 recorded this year, according to police stats.

There’s no question about the motivation behind the crime, says Aaron, a 35-year-old IT specialist who broke his finger and suffered a bruised rib alongside his friend—Metrokin—and his boyfriend, Ryan, who suffered minor injuries. “The whole thing started off as ‘Faggot’ and ‘You fucking faggot.’ We didn’t provoke.…Todd was just being nice.”

Since that night, Metrokin sees his neighborhood differently. “The other night I was walking home from Nellie’s, around 11:30, and then it occurred to me. I thought, ‘My God. What did I just do?,’” says Metrokin. “And it really pissed me off.”

Our Readers Say

How sad and disgusting. This sounds like a flashpoint case of racial and class tensions that are prevalent throughout the "transitioning" neighborhoods in the city as well as deeply entrenched cultural homophobia. I wonder if this attack was motivated and exacerbated in part by resentment over gentrification in neighborhoods where gays, especially white, upwardly mobile gays, are often followed by more yuppies, higher rents, and displacement. While it obviously doesn't justify such a brutal attack some of this tension is part of the price of living in a "diverse" neighborhood. I've noticed going out to Adams Morgan on weekend nights the sometimes tenuous balance being struck by white kids from the suburbs and nice areas of the city interacting with the remnants of the local Latino population as well as the African-American population coming from other parts of the city. It seems the later it gets at night, the more drunk and high people get, and the more troublesome people keep hanging around the more risk there is for incidents like these. The east end of downtown by the Verizon Center seems to getting similar problems though without the concentrated open gay presence.
Mike,

Nice, blame the victim. I guess lynchings were the price of living in the "diverse" southern states?

And what does displacement have to do with half-seriously trying to justify these crimes? Oh, wait, I forgot - there were no pathetic, jobless "thugs" to hang around pizza joints and rob helpless drunks before the White Invasion of DC.

Best regards,

Your neighborhood yuppie
After years of improvement, DC still has a hostile, underclass of scum that invades the nightlife sections totally unchecked.

They suck, and control is needed. Now.
This attack is not race related. African American gays also get attacked by both black and white perpetrators. They report it much much less often because there is no sympathy for African American gay men in either the Black or white communities. When crimes involve Blacks the police and media don't really give a damn because they accept it as the norm. After all they are all thugs and used to living with crime. and of course they either asked for it or deserve it. Black and Latino men are often labeled thugs just for standing on a corner.

As long as we have a government that promotes hatred of gays by denying them their rights attacks on them and other marginalized groups will continue with very little consequence to the perpetrators. Conservative radio hosts unabashedly encourage their listeners to hate anyone who is not like them. Voters continue to elect leaders that support discrimination and hate. As long as this vicious cycle continues perpetrators will feel "entitled" to practice hate and violence.
Ex-DCer here...

Years ago, there was a group in DC called GLOV (Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence).
Is it still around? Have they been involved? If not, has anything taken its place?

This is sad, and I know it can happen anywhere, but something about the incident, response, and followup is typical Washington.
Good luck.
First, I can't believe someone (blogger Mike) actually would try to justify this obvious senseless hate crime. Second (and more disturbing), how is it that DC's finest is given the cell phone of one of the "thugs" a few days after the attack, and they are still following leads..."close" to an arrest?? This issue of the police's inability or ineffectiveness is all too common. If you're out there Mayor Fenty, I think it's time to address this problem!
Hello everyone,

Excuse me. Let's try this again. Instead of reacting out of your silly little PC, self-righteous indignation that's so common in precious little local papers like this one this time please read what I said. I'm not saying this is strictly a racial issue nor am I "blaming the victim". Yes, white homophobes could and DO act the same way. I'm simply pointing out that this kind of violent crap is harder to avoid when the class/race divide in the city in so stark and the city's undergoing such a rapid transformation. When certain groups get together that have histories of tension (gay white urban "pioneers" of which I am one and the local black and Hispanic population) it obviously can produce a spark, particularly when you add an environment of late weekend nights, booze, drugs, and young roving gangs of kids trying to prove themselves to each other. This story was of a particularly egregious case but intimidation, harassment and crime like this plays itself out on some scale every day in "transitioning" neighborhoods that have seen a large demographic turnover like Shaw, Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant and Adams Morgan.

Let me state this very simply so you all understand my point. IT DOESN'T MAKE IT RIGHT. It just makes it a reality. Crime is often the price you pay for living in a "diverse" neighborhood. Along with atrocious schools and corrupt, byzantine government bureaucracy it's a large part of the reason most people live in the suburbs. People who suddenly move in from completely different experiences, socioeconomic groups, values, backgrounds and world views and start buying up property in neighborhoods that others see as theirs can start to see those people as the enemy. Being gay just adds another layer of "other" to the mix. It's terrible, disgusting and tragic but I can understand where an unprovoked attack like that comes from. It's more a call to educate people about each other since we're all now sharing the same space.

By the way, I've seen the homophobia close up when I as a gay white man moved into the Shaw neighborhood five years ago and almost immediately started having problems. The racist and homphobic slurs and harassment from locals on the street was nearly constant, and I'm not even particularly flamboyant. I heard it in many ways, from the guys hanging out on the street to the cabbies to the gas station attendants to the corner store clerks. I understood part of why I was getting it was because they thought I and people like me were going to jack up their rents and force them out. As far as they know I'm just another white hipster moving on to their turf. It has motivated me to get more involved with the community and volunteer my free time in various local organizations like DC Cares and I make an extra effort to get to know my neighbors so I don't seem so exotic and threatening.

As one poster said, poor black and Latino gays don't get the same attention or sympathy and they certainly don't have the same political clout. However, I'm not saying this isn't a story about race. Of course Black and Latino professionals have to do deal with the same thing. It's more about the intersection of race and CLASS and about how these resentments, touched off by persistently intractable homophobia, rear their ugly head. If we're too scared by political correctness to be honest in discussing what we see we'll continue to not understand how to address these problems.
It seems that alot of youths are causing trouble in the metro region recently. Some of these cases may be hate crimes specifically, but majority are specifically robberies that entail insults. Its not just the gay community being effected. Look at whats going on in Georgetown with the muggings and breakins. Look at the story of that woman abducted from springfield mall by 2 youths and then subsequently died.

Im not downplaying what happened- just suggesting that it is a youth problem that is going on and its affecting everyone. Chief Lanier and others need to step it up!
The whole thing is sickening. And what makes it worse is that the police are acting totally inept. I have lived in DC for 20 years. I have lived in some rough places...not in an atempt to be a part of some "transistion" or "gentrification" but because I needed a place I could afford. DC is a violent and crime ridden place. I think that this problem is complex yet simple at the same time. As pointed out the black community is less accepting or tolerant of gays...that does not seem to be a valid arguement that these were somehow not racially motivated. On the contrary, it proves the point. A white, gay person is totally "other" in the eyes of the perpetrators. And while on the subject of these guys, I think that what is most frightening is that they obviously feel untouchable, like they can just bash away and nothing will be done. In some ways they have been correct in this assumption. This is evidenced by the lack of police action on these cases. Well, I think it is time that the overall community stand up and come together and do something. We need to demand action and respect.
* as a side note to Mike. I get what you are saying and you make a good point until you say things like "the price you pay" for living in a "diverse neighborhood" ...this ind of does sound like blame the victim ( even if that is not your intention) and it also implies that diversity cannot be harmoniuos. I also think that you can volunteer and do good deeds until you drop dead and if some hateful person sees you they are going to bash you over the head. I would also like to state for the record that the Latino community is much more accepting of gays than has been characterized in the blogs. Walk down Mt Pleasant and you will see on any given day, transexuals strutting their stuff. Lumping all minorities into one category is not productive. I say this ....Diversity Yes! Hatred No!! We need to step up and demand action and reach out to the community at large to get involved. ENOUGH!!
I don't understand gay bashing. If a dude is gay and you're not and he isn't bothering you, what's the problem?

If dude offered me the pizza, I would have suggested he give it to a homeless person or just refused it if I didn't want it. Seems real dumb to accept the pizza, then get hostile towards him afterwards. Even if he thought dude was 'hittin' on him, why pursue HIM? He and his friends kept it moving...the guy coulda kept it moving his way and never crossed paths with this guy again. He went out of his way to assault this cat. Seems like there is more to this. I bet this guy's friends got in his ass about him being gay because he took the pizza and he had to step to dude to stop them teasing him. If he really had a problem, he shoulda went man 2 man, and if dude didn't want to go, then he shoulda just walked it off.

Either way, it was a bitch move.
Just another example of LAZY DC cops. the only thing that could have made a prosecution faster was if the VICTIMS had captured the assailants during the act. No wait...that would probably have been some civil rights violation that would have led to the arrest of the VICTIMS. Pathetic,lazy DC cops.
Grumpy's analysis wins.
Mike~thank you for being observant. DC is a tinder box.
Steve~you made good points too.

A few things:

1. There are black gays. Not only do they get bashed, they deal with racism and or sexism too. Frankly, if Metrokin were black, nobody...including the gay/lesbian gentrifiers, would care.

2. I live right at the junction of AM/MtP/CH. As a born suburbanite and 2nd wave gentrifier (in a building that pushed people out) it is a daily struggle. I watch the "transition" of DC play out at work too. There are folks who I'd rather avoid, and folks who don't believe that I live in their building.

3. As a black female, I am frequently the target of street harassment. I just keep on and ignore it, but I never know if I will be followed or get my a** kicked.

4. I avoid AM at night, it's like walking a gauntlet. I remember smoking shisha and watching 4 cops stand around while nothing was going on. As darkness fell...they walked north up 18th...away from where they needed to be. They did not return. A few weeks later on Columbia, I saw 1 cop trying to break up a fight of 3 guys. Late that same night, I saw a white male compliment a black/latin male on his jersey. The response: "It's a throwback mf". I've been grabbed a few times. When I snatch my hand back, it's a glare with a b---- after it. Most of those fools don't live in the neighborhood. & yes, I've noticed it at Verizon too. AM must raise the age to 21 at all those venues. I shouldn't be scared to go to jumbo slice.

5. The primary problem: MPD (and the poltical machine). I try so hard not to be a person that reflexively hates cops, but s--- like the lack of response to Metrokin and the cell just pushes me over the edge. For the life of me I can't figure out what they actually do. A schizophrenic man attempted to set fire to my building to get rid of evil spirits. The firemen showed up, the cops didn't and dispatch was a real b----. No, it's not a murder...but attempted arson IS a felony. I hear/see them zipping up 16th constantly. They must be doing something. But it sure as hell seems like this incident would merit that kind of attention. They have the phone...with names, numbers, pictures...you don't need Det. Freamon. Just pound the pavement or roll on your segway.
This just sucks so bad. No one deserves to be beaten up for being who they are.

I have to say that so much of the violence in Adams Morgan starts at the Jumbo Slices. That is where people looking to cause trouble stake out and identify targets. Do not go to the jumbo slices on Friday or Saturday night.
Mike, you're my hero dude! Thank you for bringing a broader, social perspective to this awful hate crime and thanks for the volunteer work that you're doing. I am an African American woman living in DC and I hate to see violence against anyone. Being a woman in this (or really any) city I know what it's like to have to look over your shoulder and watch your back. I hope these guys are caught.
The least shocking thing about this story is that the attackers were a group of black guys. People saying that this wasn't a race related crime are clueless.

Have you ever been to AdMo on a Friday or Saturday night? For some reason - and I'd love to know why - it attracts this subset of classless, uneducated street trash who loiter there with absolutely no intention of going to the bars and clubs. They are literally just looking for trouble. There is something of a "police presence" (someone is, invariably, always being arrested), but the commenter who said it needs more control is absolutely correct.

Even as a fairly large man, I feel a little on edge walking around 18th street late at night. People will stand in the middle of the sidewalk, bump into you with little thought as to how rude they're being, etc. It's a bunch of people just looking for trouble, and it's mostly black youths. It's not racism, it's just observation.
"Broader social perspectives" to these hate crimes, "resentment over gentrification" why young black men attack. Are you going to say that we should counsel and rehabilite the attackers? Maybe the victims can sit with these misunderstood young men and forgive them for their attack; after all, no one died from this beating. It was just a simples misunderstanding. Maybe we should have more social programs for these kids.

There is NO DEFENSE or EXCUSE for such violent activities. This is not about economics and who is moving into what neighborhoods, this is about hate, and violence for the sake of violence.

These violent people need to be locked up for a good long time. They have shown that they have no right to be part of our larger society. I hope they get 30 or more years for a hate crime and have to serve at a maximum security prison far away.

And if someone dies at the hand of someone committing a hate crime, they should lose their life.

A liberal DC Democrat
"No excuse for violence"--you too fail to understand Mike's point. Mike would probably agree, as do I, that these perpetrators need to be locked up. You are possibly correct when you say that it is a matter of hate, but Mike attempts to analyze this hate, and to understand the history behind it. Anyone can be outraged and Mike’s view is academic, in a sense. His approach is to look at the root of the problem, while you want to offer a quick, immediate solution. Both approaches, of course, are necessary in order to address the whole issue. However, in no way did Mike suggest we need to excuse violent behavior or educate the perpetrator. Rather, he attempted to delve into the mind the attacker; which is necessary in order to address the broader ill. I know we want to say this is black against white, because it would be easy to do so. However, that is not the case, as one can tell you simply by reading about the recent hate crime near Be Bar. Rather, it seems to be a class struggle (of course, one cannot divide class and race in today's society), because you see black men from the lower socioeconomic classes beating up black gay men from a higher socioeconomic class. I would agree that these perpetrators need to be found, tried and sentenced. However, one should also attempt to understand where this hatred is coming from. These young, white gay men move into their neighborhoods, increase the rent and force those living there out. It is only logical that forcing one out of his or her home can lead to resentment and even violence. As a result, the DC police should be more vigilant and more present in these areas. Unfortunately, as this economy continues to decline I'm afraid we will see more crime in our city.
Gays who are supporting Obama really need to pay attention to this. Because Obama has been using an anti-gay hate monger named Donnie McClurkin in his campaign. McClurkin is a controversial African-American gospel singer and pastor who is a self desrcibed "Ex-Gay" who was supposedly cured of this "curse " by Project Exodus. McClurkin has said on many occassions that he is in a "war with homosexuals." Instead of trying to remedy the homophobia prevalent in the black community, people like McClurkin play upon it. Obama first used McClurkin in the South Carolina Primary as part of a Gospel Tour to turn out voters from evangelical black churches. When gay groups protested, the Obama campaign refused to distance itself from McClurkin and the other anti-gay bigots on his gospel tour. And Obama is still employing the efforts of McClurkin to appeal to the black evangelical community with his brand of hate speech against gays. How can the gay community trust a candidate who would pander to the homophobia within the black community for votes and then say he's is committed to the concerns of the gay community?
Fantastic. Stories like these never fail to cheer me up. The faggots were asking for it, they deserve to be mutilated. As long a faggots keep pushing their lifestyle and their propaganda on us, they will never be safe. People will continue to break their bones, and so it should be. Faggots have to know their place, they are inferior, disgusting, harmful animals that deserve to be trampled on the ground and kicked in the gutter.

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