On Monday, which marked the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub terror attack, a local advocacy group sent letters to MPD Chief Peter Newsham and Prince George’s County Police Chief Henry Stawinski III demanding further action regarding the unsolved murders of two black gay men.
One of the victims, 26-year-old Matthew Mickens-Murrey, was found stabbed to death in his apartment in the 5400 block of Newton Street, in an unincorporated area of Prince George’s County, just outside of Hyattsville, on Tuesday, May 31. He was last seen just two days earlier, at Nellie’s Sports Bar, during Black Pride weekend.
Demencio Lewis was shot to death 27 times in the 2500 block of Sayles Place SE, on March 13, 2014. Police reports say that four men in hooded sweatshirts were seen leaving the area in a black Hyundai Sonata. A spokeswoman for MPD told Metro Weekly police have since made one arrest in the case.
Devin Barrington-Ward, president of Impulse Group DC, of which Mickens-Murrey was a member, says the group decided to begin advocating for Demencio Lewis as well, after realizing that no one beyond Lewis’ family was demanding answers from MPD. He says has not been notified of any arrest in either case.
“While I do not believe the murders of Matt and Demencio are related, it is tragedy that two black gay men can be killed in our area and outside of their family and friends, no entity is demanding accountability and justice from the departments responsible for investigating these crimes,” Barrington-Ward said in a statement.
“Far too often, when Black gay men and Black transwomen are killed their murderers are never found. This sends a disturbing message that their lives have little to no value to their communities because if they did their murderers would be found,” he added. “Today, Impulse Group DC is seeking to shift that narrative and push the authorities to do more and secure justice in these cases.”
Following Mickens-Murrey’s death, the entertainment-based HIV and education advocacy organization Impulse Group DC held a vigil in memory of Mickens-Murrey. Following the vigil, the group announced it would do a canvass of bars that the victim had frequented when he was last seen alive, including Nellie’s, the Fireplace, and the Bachelor’s Mill.
Jennifer Donelan, director of media relations for the Prince George’s County Police Department, notes that Chief of Police Hank Stawinski was present at the vigil on Saturday, June 3. Flanked by Captain of Homicide Anthony Schartner, and Ambassador of LGBTQ Affairs Maj. Irene Burks, Stawinski shared as many details on the case as he could without compromising the investigation. He also assured attendees of the vigil that the department is doing everything it can to solve the case.
Donelan adds that Prince George’s Police had asked Impulse to provide the number of the department’s Crime Solvers hotline on the fliers it was handing out, so that people with pertinent information would share it with the proper authorities.
“This is a priority for us,” Donelan said. “We want everyone to know that they can come forward and speak to our detectives. No piece of information is too small.”
Donelan also took issue with the implication that the department has not been acting quickly enough to solve the case. She noted that the investigation is extensive and has taken them out of the jurisdiction.
“I would again reiterate that we have a very high closure rate,” she told Metro Weekly. “As far as our efforts, we have made sincere efforts in this case to inform the community, to let them know, to reaffirm our commitment to solving this case.”
She added that the reason some information may not be readily available in that releasing too much sensitive information could tip off the killer or jeopardize the case against them should they be charged.
“The minute can share more details, we will,” Donelan said. “We are on this. We are doing everything within our power to solve this investigation.”
Those with information related to Mickens-Murrey’s murder are asked to contact the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS. There is a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction in the case.
Those with information related to the murder of Demencio Lewis are asked to contact the Metropolitan Police Department’s Crime Solvers hotline at 1-800-673-2777. Information leading to an arrest and indictment in a case may result in an award of up to $1,000.
Editor’s Note: We were unable to reach Prince George’s County Police at the time of publication. This article has since been updated to include a response from a department spokeswoman.