The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued a statement on Friday urging West Virginia law enforcement to thoroughly investigate the fatal beating of Arthur “J.R.” Carl Warren Jr., an African-American gay man. David Allen Parker and Jared Wilson, both white 17-year-olds, have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder. But the beating, despite evidence to the contrary, is not being investigated as a hate crime.
Warren, according to the Associated Press, HRC, and the New York Times, reported to several individuals that he had been intimidated, harassed, and attacked by high school aged boys in Grant Town, the site where he was murdered, on several occasions. Warren, who was openly gay, identified these incidents as both racist and homophobic. Many friends and supporters held a vigil on July 11 to mourn Warren’s death and to urge law enforcement to prosecute his murder as a hate crime. The vigil was disturbed by a small group of protestors shouting angry and violent anti-gay messages.
Warren’s body, in an open casket at the memorial service, was beaten and severely disfigured. Parker and Wilson, the accused teens, beat and kicked Warren to death, and then placed his body in the trunk of a car, drove to another site, and drove over his corpse repeatedly, attempting to stage a hit-and-run to cover their crime. This extreme level of violence is not uncommon in bias-motivated, anti-LGBT crimes. In a 1994 study, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported that LGBT murder victims are more likely than heterosexual victims to die brutal deaths. In addition, anti-gay crimes are the third highest category of hate crimes reported to the FBI.
Hate crimes legislation would enforce stricter penalties on those who perpetrate bias-motivated violence. The West Virginia hate crimes statute currently excludes sexual orientation, but covers race, religion, and gender. Hate crimes laws inclusive of sexual orientation are currently on the books in 22 states and the District of Columbia. A comprehensive federal law, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999, is currently pending in the Senate. Write to your legislator to urge the passage of this important act, or visit HRC (www.hrc.org) or the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (www.ngltf.org) for more information and to fill out an online petition.