Metro Weekly

Local LGBTQ group to hold memorial birthday happy hour in honor of Matthew Mickens-Murrey

Community will gather to remember Mickens-Murrey and two other gay black men who lost their lives in recent years

Matthew Mickens-Murrey – Photo: Impulse DC, via Facebook.

Impulse DC, a local LGBTQ advocacy group, will hold a memorial happy hour in observance of what would by the 27th birthday of Matthew Mickens-Murrey, who was found brutally stabbed to death in his Hyattsville home on May 30 following Black Pride festivities over the Memorial Day Weekend.

The happy hour will be held at Nellie’s Sports Bar on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 9. The bar was a frequent hangout spot for Mickens-Murrey, and was one of the last places where he was seen alive on Sunday, May 28.

“It’s been nearly six months since Matt’s murder and there isn’t a day that goes by where his community of family and friends don’t think about him,” Devin Barrington-Ward, president of Impulse DC, said in a statement. “Matt was a supporter and friend of Impulse DC. In fact, he was very close to some of our board members, and we felt that Matt’s birthday was too special of an occasion to not celebrate his life.

“Additionally, we want this to be an opportunity to engage others in ensuring justice by collecting signatures for a petition to police and elected officials to put more effort into solving this case,” Barrington-Ward added. 

Barrington-Ward says Prince George’s County Police investigators claim to have some leads, but have not made any arrests in the case. As such, Impulse DC will be circulating a petition at the happy hour to try and place pressure on police and political leaders to put “more effort” into trying to solve the case. 

Impulse DC’s efforts appear to be supported by his family, most notably his sister, Naja Murrey, and his mother, Melody Murrey, who will both be in attendance at the happy hour memorial observance.

“Matthew was a very loyal friend and a non-judgmental confidant. He was also a loving and trusting person all around, which unfortunately may have cost him his life,” Naja Murrey said in a statement. “Matthew’s quick wit and sense of humor brightened his characteristic and strengthened his magnetic pull on your heart. And of course we can’t forget his ‘Mile Smile.’ His smile spread wide across his face and joy and happiness to all those around him. His loss of life is tragic to all who knew him but his impression will last FOREVER and why we will continue to demand #JusticeForMatt.”

Sgt. Ben Brown, a homicide detective for the Prince George’s County Police Department who has been working the Mickens-Murrey case, confirms that there have been no arrests and that the department does not have a suspect in mind for the murder, but says the investigation is ongoing. 

“Just so you know, we continue to work the case. We’ve spent many hours on it, even travelled out-of-state to interview people in the area that Matt grew up in. A lot of his friends were interviewed, and people who were in the area at the time of the incident,” Brown says.

He adds that one complicating factor in solving the case is that police haven’t heard from any third-party eyewitnesses regarding the crime, and there may not be any.

“We believe that, more than likely, this happened between the assailant and our decedent in his apartment,” Brown says. “Based on the time frame, it may be a bit of an issue, that nobody was out in the area where they would have seen anything. We have a really tight timeline, so we have a good idea of where [Mickens-Murrey] was up until the time of the murder.”

Brown adds that he understand the frustration of family and community members, but police are wary of releasing too many details, as doing so could impede the murder investigation and any potential charges that may be brought against suspects if an arrest is made in the future.

“Part of the problem is we can’t tell them everything that we’ve developed in the case, so they may feel like they don’t know everything. But we have invested a lot of time in this case. Even this past weekend, an interview was done in reference to the case. We do have some evidence, but unfortunately, we can’t talk about that.”

Brown adds that there is a $25,000 reward for anyone who has information about the case that leads to an arrest and conviction, and hopes the reward will keep the public engaged. People with such information can choose to remain anonymous or not, but can give police that information via the department’s tip line, at 1-866-411-TIPS.

A spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County Police Department pushed back strongly against assertions that the police are not putting effort into trying to close the case, which remains one of 18 active investigations being handled by the department.

The spokeswoman also pushed back against assertions made by Impulse DC that the case is “cold” — a designation that does not occur until at least three years have passed without leads. She reiterated Brown’s statements that police continue to do interviews in the case, and said the department has kept in contact with Mickens-Murrey’s family on a weekly basis to update them on the case.

“This has been, quite frankly, a round-the-clock operation since he was murdered,” the spokeswoman said. “We need people to keep coming forward, we need people to keep calling in tips.”

The happy hour will also honor the lives of the unsolved murders of two other gay men: Demencio Lewis, 23, who was killed in Southeast D.C. in 2014, and Stephon Marquis Perkins, 21, who was killed in Southeast D.C. in 2015.

“Unfortunately, Matt isn’t the only young Black gay man in the DC area to be killed in their prime and have their killers still remain at large,” Barrington-Ward said. “What message does it send to the community when they constantly see other Black LGBTQ people being murdered over a short span of time and those victims, their families, friends, and community never receive justice? This is about accountability as well as public safety for Black LGBTQ people. Black Lives Matter and that includes Black LGBTQ people, too.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com