NYC Leaders Concerned Over Murders of Gay Men
New York City authorities, politicians and members of the LGBT community are concerned over the recent strangulation deaths of three middle-aged gay men in Queens and Manhattan, the New York Daily News reports.
Leaders have warned the community this week to be careful when meeting someone for the first time as police claim that two of the men who were strangled to death may have met their attackers on the Internet. Out City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) called the incidents "frightening" and said he's concerned that "there could be somebody out there targeting gay men."
"People need to exercise extreme caution," he added.
Three men have been strangled to death over the course of a few weeks and the latest victim, Joseph Benzinger, 54, was found dead late Saturday night in a motel in Queens.
"He used to be here before and he was a very good man - always said 'Hi, bye,' everything," Maria Ortiz, an employee at the motel, told New York's CBS 2.
On Jan. 26 David Rangel, 53, a Queens middle school teacher, was found dead in his apartment and on Jan. 24 Charles Romo, 48, was found tied up with a bag over his head in his Manhattan apartment.
According to CBS 2, there were no signs of forced entry in all three cases. Additionally, the news station points out that Rangel was found stuffed under a sofa.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, however, told the media on Tuesday that "It appears that the cases are not related with different suspects involved," according to CBS 2. Browne also said it is believed the suspects in Rangel's murder are black and the suspect involved in Benzinger's death is white or light skinned. Nevertheless, Dromm still urges that the community be alert.
"There are people who have been known to go online and prey on LGBT people because they think that we're a vulnerable community," he said.
The Daily News notes that a national report by the New York City Anti-Violence Project says violence in the city's LGBT community rose 13 percent from 2010 to 2011 even though the nation saw a 16 percent drop during the same time period.
AVP's deputy director, Ejeris Dixon, said there has been a rise in reported cases of pick-up violence -- a term that is used when people go home together after meeting for the first time online or in a bar.
"People feel that they need to hide the fact that they're meeting someone online and that's the problem," she told the Daily News. "Let people know who you are going to meet, where you are going to meet and meet in a public place."
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), who is openly gay, also urged the LGBT community to be careful.
"The perpetrators must be apprehended and prosecuted to the full extent of the law," she said in a statement.