Not who’s targeted for a hate crime because of their (real or perceived) sexual orientation ends up being murdered. Some survive, but their lives are never the same. Like Dwan
What struck me as I was reading about how Dwan Prince was attacked by three men — right outside of his apartment building, who beat, stomped, and kicked him while shouting anti-gay epithets (and, according to some witnesses, his name), and how one attacker returned to deliver one final kick to Prince’s face, as lay dazed and bleeding — was what sparked it all. Unlike what happened to Richie Philips or Jason Gage, there were no alleged (and allegedly unwelcome) sexual advances behind closed doors. Like Roberto Duncanson, what happened between Prince and his attacker happened in the street. And what happened to Dwan Prince happened in the street.
And what sparked the beating that would leave Dwan Prince with lifelong consequences? A look and a flirtatious remark. Like Roberto Duncanson, Prince’s main offense was just looking at his attacker. (I’m reminded of the response I used to hear in kindergarden, “How would you know he’s looking at you unless you’re looking at him?”) Like Duncanson’s attacker, Prince’s asked “What the fuck are you looking at?” And, according to witnesses, Prince responded with a flirtatious joke. (Just like Kevin Aviance’s attackers claimed he provoked a beating by calling one of them “sweetie.”)
For that, Dwan Prince’s life was unalterably changed, and very nearly taken from him.
Dwan Prince is an African American gay man living in Brooklyn, New York. On June 8, 2005, Prince was assaulted in front of his home by Steven Pomie and two other men, who yelled anti-gay epithets as they stomped and kicked him. The attack ensued after Pomie and Prince exchanged words, and Prince responded flirtatiously.
At the time was attacked, Dwan Prince, 27, lived in an apartment building at the corner of E.94th Street and Kings Highway, in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.1) In addition to having worked in construction and demolition, Prince also worked as porter in his apartment building.2) Though later described as “openly gay and very well liked,”3) Prince said only a few his neighbors knew he was gay but he’d never had any problems in the neighborhood.4)
Around midnight, on June 8, Prince was taking out his garbage when Steven Pomie, 22, walked past his apartment building. Pomie was wearing a pink tank top he’d borrowed from his girlfriend and was in the act of lifting it up when he noticed Prince looking at him. Pomie yelled at Prince, “What the fuck are you looking at?5) You want a piece of me?”6) Witnesses said Prince responded with a flirtatious joke.7)
Pomie passed by, but returned shortly afterwards in a dark sedan with two other men. The three of them began to beat, kick, and stop Prince, while yelling anti-gay slurs, and calling him “faggot.”8) Police said Prince’s attacker also called him by name, indicating that they knew him.9) Police believed Pomie was aware of Prince’s sexual orientation prior to the attack.10)
The attacker were frightened off by a passing car, but returned moments later. Prince’s neighbor, Oscar Bascomb, was sitting on his front stoop when he heard the noise from the attack and went to investigate. He found Prince, battered and still under attack, trying to crawl back into his building. Bascomb inserted himself between Prince and Pomie, attempting to stop the attack.11) The three men ran off, but Pomie returned and gave Prince a final kick in the head as he lay against the building, dazed and bleeding.12) Pomie, according to witnesses, later said that he beat Prince for “talking that faggot shit again.”
Pomie was arrested on Thursday, June 16, in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where he was held on charges of attempted murder, and assault as a hate crime, among other charges. Pomie, an ex-convict and suspected Crips gang member, allegedly fled to New Jersey after police released his name and photo. Police identified Pomie as the main aggressor in the incident. 13) The other two men who participated in the attack were not arrested.14)
Dwan Prince’s Aftermath
Prince stopped breathing briefly, as his attackers fled, and lost consciousness. He was taken to Brookdale hospital, where he was placed in intensive care.15) Prince remained in a coma for over a month. He sustained a blood clot the size of a soda can in his brain16), and endured three brain surgeries.17)
As a result the injuries he sustained in the attack, Prince – who is HIV positive – suffered paralysis in his left arm and leg.18) He was required to use a wheelchair much of the time, and also suffered impaired speech and cognitive problems, including memory loss.19) Prince had no memory of the attack, and claimed not to remember anything between saying goodbye to his brother that evening and waking up in the hospital weeks later.20)
Due to nerve damage sustained from the beating he endured, Prince also suffered uncontrollable tremors and constant pain in his limbs.21) Prince required physical therapy and speech therapy, for his slurred speech, after emerging from his coma.22) 23)
Because he required nearly 24-hour care, Prince had leave his apartment and move in with his mother – Valerie Prinez – in New Jersey.24) Prinez, a paralegal, suffered financial hardship to become her son’s primary caregiver – taking unpaid leave from her job, and declaring bankruptcy. In an interview with The New York Blade, Prinez claimed that when she turned to her church, her requests for help were ignored when it was learned that her son is gay.25)
Indictment, Conviction & Sentencing
Promie was indicted on June 28, 2005 and charged with several counts of assault, including two counts of assault as a hate crime. The district attorney said that, due to the brutality of the attack, Promie would not have the opportunity to plea bargain unless he turned in his accomplices.26)
On March 28, 2006 Promie was convicted of first degree assault27), and assault as a hate crime in the June 8, 2005, attack on Prince. Promie reportedly wept in court after being convicted.28)
Promie shed tears in court again, on April 24, 2006, when he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the attack on Prince.29) Promie received 25 years for each count, to be served concurrently. The judge in the case also required that Promie undergo mandatory psychiatric treatment.30)
Prince attempted to read a victim’s statement at the sentencing, but found it too difficult to speak intelligibly, and gave it to his mother to finish reading. Though he always denied his part in the assault on Prince, Pomie apologized to Prince and his family.31)
All for a look and a remark. (For that matter, a remark to a guy who was wearing his girlfriend’s pink tank top.) There’s enough material there to write an entire post on the fragile, anxious masculinity that would need to respond so violently to a glance and a remark. (And there’s even more material in the reality that Prince’s attacker had to go get reinforcements before he returned to attack Prince.) But what stands out to me about the attack on Dwan Prince is summed up in a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which I came across in the course of researching more stories for the LGBT Hate Crimes Project.
Like all hate crimes, they send a message: Merely by virtue of being in a particular racial, religious or sexual preference group — or if someone thinks you “look like one” — you could be the next target, the next Robert Spencer or Fred Martinez Jr.
Or the next Dwan Prince, if you look the wrong way at the wrong person. Best to remember your place. And keep your head down.