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|Atlanta police respond to recent gay-related shootings|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|September 17, 2010 00:00|
In the span of two weeks, three people at least associated with the Atlanta LGBT community have been killed. And while the Atlanta Police Department stresses that gay people are not being targeted, there is a buzz from some asking, “What is going on? Are we safe?”
At press time, there were 62 homicides in Atlanta this year with three knowingly related to the LGBT population, said Major Keith Meadows, commander of the Atlanta Police Department’s Major Crimes Section, during an interview Monday at his office at Public Safety Headquarters on Peachtree Street.
Durand Robinson of Traxx Atlanta, the gay Decatur nightclub and party promotion team, was gunned down in the middle of Hadlock Street in southwest Atlanta on Aug. 25, a week before one of the biggest weekends of the year for Traxx — Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride.
Eleven days later, on Sept. 5, two young men — Samuel Blizzard, 21, a Georgia State University student from Spring Cove, Va., and Calvin Streater, 26, of Atlanta — were found shot to death in a Richmond Circle apartment in southeast Atlanta after police said they had attended Black Gay Pride events.
Police officials are quick to point out that there is no relationship between the shootings and right now there is no proof that sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation played a role in any of the killings.
“At this point we have not been able to determine a link,” said Meadows.
But such violent crimes impacting the LGBT community within days of each other, as well as other noted crimes involving openly gay people this year, have put some citizens on edge.
Meadows said an increase in Atlanta’s LGBT population could be behind the increase in reported crimes involving LGBT victims.
“Obviously if you have an increase in any segment of society you notice an increase in crime,” he said.
It is also more accepted now for police to discuss the sexual orientation of victims than it was when Meadows started working at the APD 25 years ago, he said.
As far as an increase in the LGBT population in Atlanta, Meadows said the APD does not have statistics to prove that.
“I can’t quote that as a fact but we will start to research it as we move forward. We just have to be mindful that as we move forward at looking at these cases to judge them on individual merit and not lump them together,” he said.
Not much data exists to say for certain how many LGBT people live in Atlanta. But the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law, which tracks and reports same-sex couples in each state based on U.S. Census data, reports that in 2000 there were 19,288 same-sex couples living in all of Georgia.
In 2005, the latest numbers available, Georgia same-sex couples increased to 24,424, likely due to a growing willingness by gay and lesbian people to disclose their partnerships to the government, according to the Williams Institute.
The Williams Institute also estimated that in 2005, there were an estimated 278,943 gay, lesbian, and bisexual people (single and coupled) living in all of Georgia. Not surprisingly, the county with the highest LGBT population was Fulton, with an estimated 3,481 same-sex couples.
Police: We would tell if trend
Carlos Campos, public affairs managers for the APD, noted that if there were an obvious trend of gay people being targeted by a killer or killers, the police would be quick to put that information out to the public.
“If our homicide people saw a trend in anything, crimes against a community or other segment of the population, we’d be really aggressive about getting that information to the public,” Campos said.
“We have nothing to gain in denying there’s a trend and everything to lose,” Campos added.
And Meadows, who is no stranger to the media, says he always wants to get as much information as possible to the public — without hurting chances to solve a case.
“My biggest fear is not getting that information out and someone being victimized,” he said. “Especially with violent crimes.
“We want to do everything we can to get these people [criminals] out of our community. If we can do that through media, I don’t have a problem,” Meadows said.
“If you’re able to alert the public about potential dangers — everybody has bits and pieces of information. I’m really big on putting stuff out there. The more information we put out the more we get back,” he said.
“You can’t investigate a murder alone; it takes a community.”
Updates on recent cases
Meadows provided updates on several recent cases involving Atlanta’s LGBT community.
Samuel Blizzard and Calvin Streater, killed Sept. 5:
Police continue to try to retrace the steps of these two young men. They were dead in a Richmond Circle apartment with gunshot wounds to the head. There was no sign of forced entry, suggesting the victims knew the killer, Meadows said.
Blizzard was found dead in the living room while Streater was found dead in a back room that was used as a bedroom. There were no signs of a struggle.
“With the first victim [Blizzard], based on body position, he was not under duress, he didn’t know it was coming,” Meadows said.
Some of the witnesses questioned said they had seen one of the victims, Streater, at Black Gay Pride with someone they didn’t know. Meadows said some information can’t be disclosed right now as the investigation continues and leads are tracked down. He did say the victims were not robbed after they were killed.
Meadows said he called Atlanta Police LGBT Liaison Officer Patricia Powell to the scene to help witnesses understand how to give statements and because of the terrible nature of the crime.
“Officer Powell lends us a great deal of sensitivity and helps witnesses navigate through the process and helped us get statements,” Meadows said.
Police are not even sure if the two men were gay, but Streater was seen at Black Gay Pride the day before. Meadows did not know where at Black Gay Pride the victim was.
The fact at least one victim was at Black Gay Pride may not play any role in the killings, but all possibilities have to be eliminated, Meadows said. That Blizzard’s family lives out of town is also an obstacle in investigating the killings because the family is not sure where Blizzard was, Meadows said.
“Their sexual orientation and the actual murders themselves — at this point it appears to be a non-issue for us. We have to eliminate possibilities. Everything they did that day will play a role [in solving the case],” he said.
Durand Robinson, killed Aug. 25:
Meadows said Robinson was a victim of a carjacking and that he was shot outside his Ford truck on Aug. 25.
Police have strong leads in this case. Whether the killer made him get out of the vehicle before shooting him or pushed him out after shooting him is not certain, however.
“In the near future we hope to get some information out to media to solicit help from the public to identify a potential suspect. That case is not moving along as fast I’d like, but we have to be really methodical,” Meadows said.
Witnesses said they heard shouting shortly after 1 a.m. on Hadlock Street and then saw Robinson lying in the street. He was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest.
“There were other circumstances that led up to the ultimate shooting,” Meadows did say.
“This had nothing had to do with his sexual orientation. It might have had something to do with past relationships with people. Personal relationships,” he said.
George Walker, attacked July 10:
Gregory Johnson, 30, confessed to the July 10 beating of George Walker, 31, an officer with the state Board of Pardons & Paroles. Johnson told police he took Walker’s cash and cellphone.
“The crime does not appear to be a random act. The two had met at some point prior to the assault, Johnson told investigators,” Carlos Campos, public affairs manager for the APD, said in a statement.
Walker’s black SUV was discovered in the parking lot of the gay bar the Atlanta Eagle.
Walker was beaten so severely he had been placed in a medically induced coma and was treated at Grady Hospital. He is out of the coma and police continue to investigate.
Campos said police do not know Walker’s sexual orientation and have not classified the beating as a hate crime.
Transgender sex worker, attacked July 9:
Police continue to investigate the case of a transgender sex worker who was attacked on July 9 by a john who didn’t want to pay her. The male attacker shot at her, grazing her hip, and bit off one of her ears.
Josh Noblitt, attacked and robbed July 2:
The gay social justice minister from Saint Mark United Methodist Church was attacked and robbed at gunpoint in Piedmont Park with his friend as they were having an evening picnic July 2.
A group of young men approached them and asked if they were gay, saying they “should whoop your ass for that.” The group walked away but returned later and a fight broke out between the young men and Noblitt and his friend. Somehow the juvenile attackers called for backup before police responded.
Six male suspects ages 13-19 were arrested, and remain in custody awaiting trial. APD has classified this as an anti-gay bias crime.
Patrick Boland, killed May 28, 2009:
Police said at the time it appeared Boland, who was confirmed to be gay by his family, was in Piedmont Park after hours cruising for sex. He was stabbed to death there.
“We had information that a couple people were robbed in the Midtown area that day with knives. We looked at all those cases to see if there were relationships.
Unfortunately in the murder case, there are no witnesses at all,” Meadows said.
“Certainly we do know the victim in that case made a point to meet someone in Piedmont Park that night. We don’t know who. He got there and his car was parked in a separate location. We processed the vehicle — the only prints found were his,” Meadows said.
There is no information at this point that the killing was related to the other robberies, other than that a knife was the weapon in all of the crimes, Meadows said.
“Right now we’ve hit a brick wall,” he said.
Top photo: Major Keith Meadows, commander of the Atlanta Police Department’s Major Crimes Section (by Dyana Bagby)
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