Iowa Teen Dies After Bashing
A young gay man was attacked and beaten by a gang who taunted him, called him with anti-gay slurs and the female version of his name, and delivered a vicious kick to his face early in the morning on Aug. 19. On Aug. 21, the 19-year-old died after being taken off life support, having suffered grievous head trauma.
LGBTQ Nation reported on the death of Marcellus Andrews, a college-bound resident of Waterloo, Iowa, on Aug. 22.
The incident started at about quarter to one in the morning on Aug. 19, local newspaper the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported on Aug. 22.
Andrews was waiting on a porch for two female friends when a truck pulled to a stop in front of the house and a gang of young people began shouting taunts and insults. The two young women rushed to the scene, and joined in the fracas. One of Andrews’ friends hit a young woman who was with the gang, and the conflict escalated.
Andrews went down. As the gang fled and one of his friends, Nakita Wright, tried to help Andrews back up, "this boy ran back and kicked him in his face," Wright told the newspaper.
Wright called emergency services. According to paramedics, Andrews was unconscious when they arrived. He had sustained severe injuries to his head.
Andrews was put on life support at a local hospital, but two days later he died when life support was discontinued. The newspaper said in a separate article that an autopsy showed Andrews died due to head trauma.
The article noted that Andrews died only days before a Baptist dance group, the Crusaders Drill Team, was to have participated in a national competition. The young man was also slated to begin studies at Hawkeye Community College.
Despite the anti-gay slurs that witnesses say the gang hurled, the police do not view this as a bias crime motivated by Andrews’ real or perceived sexual orientation. Authorities say that Andrews and the gang had been in conflict for a year, and that the day before the beating a vehicle was vandalized.
The Houston Chronicle reported on the story on Aug. 24, but did not say whose vehicle had been damaged or was suspected of having carried out the vandalism.
But Waterloo Police spokesperson Michael McNamee told the press that police had not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime having been perpetrated.
"We’re not ruling that out," McNamee said. "We’re looking at every aspect of what went on that night. At this point, I don’t know if that necessarily has anything to do with the altercation."
But One Iowa, a GLBT equality advocacy group, says that the anti-gay language is cause for concern. The group called the fatal attack a "wake-up call," with One Iowa leader Troy Price telling a radio audience, "The language that was used during this attack is very alarming and very concerning to us," Advocate.com reported on Aug. 24.
"Regardless of how the investigation turns out as to whether this was a hate crime or not, the fact is there was derogatory, hurtful and harmful language. This person was taunted for what appears to be his perceived sexuality," Price added, according to an Aug. 24 RadioIowa article.
One Iowa issued a media release that made the assertion that anti-gay messages in the public arena can contribute to an atmosphere in which sexual minorities are targeted for bias-motivated attacks.
"Tragedies like this underscore the incredible need to talk about issues affecting gay and lesbian Iowans and to fight for equality in our communities," the release read.
"When community, state, and national leaders ridicule and deride gay and lesbians, it creates a hurtful environment and gives license to this sort of attack. Most importantly, it harms lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) young people by sending the message that they are not equal. We can and must do better, because we can never, ever allow an attack like this to take place in Iowa again."
Anti-gay politician Michele Bachmann recently won a straw poll in Iowa for the GOP’s nomination of a presidential candidate to run against Barack Obama next year. Though Bachmann has toned down her anti-gay rhetoric considerably while on the campaign trail, the Republican congresswoman -- who has made a point to mention that she was born in Waterloo on numerous occasions of late -- has a history of making controversial claims about gays, including the assertion that gays lead "very sad lives" due to not being heterosexual.
As a Minnesota state lawmaker, Bachmann stood against efforts to support GLBT youths. She and her husband run two Christian counseling clinics that appear to promote so-called "reparative therapy," a religiously based treatment that claims to "cure" gays, but which reputable mental health authorities say is useless and even dangerous. Critics, noting the spike in gay youth suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin school district -- which lies in Bachmann’s congressional district -- wonder whether the lawmaker’s long history of anti-gay actions and statements might not have contributed to a climate in which sexual minorities, particularly the young, are left to despair.
"It’s an absolute tragedy and it’s something that Iowans need to recognize happens here in this state," Price, speaking to the problem of anti-gay bullying among teens, said during his radio appearance.
"I hope Iowans will take this opportunity to reflect upon the fact that we need to talk about the issues affecting gay and lesbian Iowans and hope this never happens again."
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.