On Sunday, Sept. 28, local GLBT community activists, as well as family and friends of Tony Randolph Hunter, will gather where he was brutally beaten three weeks ago. Hunter, 37, died of his injuries on Sept. 17.
Friends say Hunter, a resident of Clinton, Md., was heading to Be Bar, which caters to the gay community, the evening of Sunday, Sept. 7. He never made it. Instead, according to the report from the Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, Hunter and a friend, Trevor Carter, 23, of Fort Washington, Md., were attacked and robbed on the 1300 block of Eighth Street NW as they were getting out of their car. The attack was initially classified as a hate crime due to ''geographic location.'' Be Bar is at 1318 Ninth St. NW.
On Thursday, Sept. 18, shortly after the announcement of Hunter's death at Howard University Hospital, Inspector Rodney Parks, who heads MPD's homicide branch, said upon further investigation that there is no indication that the motive of the attack included any anti-gay bias.
''We have no indication right now that this was a motive of a hate crime, merely by the association of where [Hunter] was going, or past knowledge of [the victims]. We have no indication right now that it's anything more than a robbery,'' Parks said at the press conference outside MPD headquarters downtown.
Asked about the Shaw neighborhood and whether it has become commonplace for muggings and assaults, Parks said he has ''no immediate indication'' of that.
''Our intelligence section does a workup on recent crimes in the area, recent patterns of crime in the area, and as part of our investigation we will be looking at that,'' he said.
''What we know now is that all four subjects were black males, and they're in the age range of late teens to early to mid 20s.... There were no weapons indicated in this incident.''
When asked if police are completely ruling out the possibility of a hate crime, Parks said anything could come up during the investigation.
''Right now, the motive we have indicated is robbery. Nothing else. Nothing more. During the course of the investigation, anything can come up, but we have no indication that that's anticipated.''
Regardless of the motive, local activist Brian Watson, the director of programs at Transgender Health Empowerment (THE) and president of the D.C. Coalition of Black LGBT Men and Women, says it's important to raise awareness about Hunter's death.
''I think it's really important to highlight when a member of the community passes away anyway, so when someone is killed in such a vicious way it's really important for the community to come out and remember them,'' Watson says.
''Whatever the case may be, whether it was a hate crime or a robbery, it's really important for the community to come out and let people know we're not scared. No matter what's happening, we're still going to come out, we're still going to be who we are.''The D.C. Coalition, along with Us Helping Us, an organization that specializes in HIV/AIDS prevention services for black gay and bisexual men, is sponsoring an upcoming gathering at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C., at 474 Ridge St. NW, at 6 p.m., on Sunday, Sept. 28.
''What we're expecting to do is to have a short 'speak out,' where people can come and talk about [Hunter] or just hate crimes in general that they have been victims of,'' Watson says. Organizers are asking attendants to wear white ''as a sign of unity,'' and have invited elected officials, including D.C. Council members David Catania (I-At large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Phil Mendelson (D-At large), in addition to family and friends, to speak at the gathering.
According to information supplied by family and friends, Hunter, a gay African American, was a native of Durham, N.C., and honorably discharged from the Army National Guard. He had also served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Hunter worked as an accountant and was a member of Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church in Northeast.
''His best friend was asked to speak, but he doesn't want to speak,'' Watson says, emphasizing the pain close friends and family are enduring at the time.
After the gathering at the church, attendants will march together from MCC to the location of Hunter's attack, and hold a candlelight vigil, Watson says.
Dana Fonville, a gay D.C. resident, says he will be there. He organized the event and approached Watson and others in the process, he says. Fonville was also friends with Hunter, whom he describes as a ''spiritual'' person. Fonville says he last saw Hunter Sept. 7, not long before the attack.
''That night we were all at the Black Family Reunion [concert] and we were all standing at the stage... enjoying the gospel music, clapping, sharing and worshipping,'' Fonville says.
''At the end of the evening, Randolph just said goodbye to us, and they were headed to the club, to Be Bar. We had all discussed going to Be Bar and everyone decided we were not going.... He came up to us and he hugged us goodbye, like we normally do. He said, 'See you later.'''
Recent events have left Fonville understandably stunned.
''I'm still in shock. We weren't that close, but he's somebody I did care about. It's still something I'm in shock about because it could have been me. It could have been anybody.''
A gathering at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C., at 474 Ridge St. NW, is scheduled for 6 p.m., on Sunday, Sept. 28. A candlelight procession to the scene of the attack will follow. For details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org