The deaths of three gay men, David Rangel, 53, Charles Romo, 48, and Joseph Benzinger, 54, have cast a dark cloud over the LGBT New York community and the city at large.
The first death occurred on January 26 where David Rangel was found in his apartment. In reference to the New York Daily News and the Anti-Violence Project, medical professionals believe that Rangel’s cause of death was strangulation. Reports indicate that the suspect may have been someone Mr. Rangel met online.
Two days later, on the morning of January 28, Charles Romo’s housekeeper found Romo dead in his home. The victim was discovered in his underwear, and was bound and brutally beaten. Suspects have yet to be identified according to New York Post Police Blotter and AVP. Police are looking into the possibility that the assailant could have been an intimate partner.
The most recent homicide was of Joseph Benzinger, which occurred in the Crown Motor Inn on Queens Boulevard on February 9. Benzinger was found dead in a hotel room. The medical examiner believes that the victim was strangled to death.
Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, Sharon Stapel, explained to 429Magazine that people have a relaxed attitude when going to meet someone for the first time, that safety isn’t the first thing on their mind. However, maybe it needs to be.
“Let someone know where you are going, who you are going to be with [and]where you are going,” said Stapel. “And also, we suggest to text your friends when you get to [your meeting location], when you are leaving and when you are going home and when you get home.”
She went on to say, “use your friends and family as community so that people know where you are. If you find yourself in this situation, text your friends and ask them to call you to tell you that you need to go home.”
Stapel stressed the importance of trusting your instincts – if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. She went on to say that when meeting someone in person, it is very important to meet in a public place and to determine if this person is who they say they are. Stapel suggested this check list of questions: “is this person the same person I was talking to online? Do they look like this person? Do they know the same things we were talking about online?”
Most importantly, trust your instincts and work to become a supportive and trusting community, “we need to come together as a large community and work together to keep our communities as safe as possible” she said.