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The LGBT Hate Crimes Project: Roberto Duncanson – Update

One of the most striking things about some hate crimes is how little it takes to provoke them. A look that lingers longer than usual. Words, or even a word, sometimes spoken casually and, yes, sometimes in flirtation. Any of these can be enough to warrant a beating, or even murder in the eyes of some people. At least when the object is someone of the same sex.

Among the many comments about Larry King’s murder, a few such as these served to remind that the “rules” are very different for LGBT people.

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Posted by West_to_East on February 11, 2009 at 6:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I dont feel sorry for Larry one bit, If he didn’t make gay comments to the kid it would of never happen. I mean I don’t wish death on anyone and the actions from this kid are extreme and deserves punishment but the paper is the paper and always makes the story seem harsh then what it really is. So everyone read the past stories and see that they went over board on this story making Larry and innocent bystander.


Posted by AnnaWhaat on February 11, 2009 at 7:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Gay doesn’t have anything to do with it, BUT when you constantly tease someone and ask them to the prom and to be your valentine, knowing that person isn’t gay and embarrass them to the point of his friends all teasing him then I can see a person loosing all control mentally. He tried to get help for the harrassment BUT NO ONE at the school did a darn thing to stop it. I feel thier is a double standard here. And No he barely turned 14 like three weeks before the shooting. Yes he deserves punishment BUT not to be tried as an adult. Obviously these adult teachers didn’t do a darn thing to help!

Comments like that still outnumbered those taking this commenters logic to its logical extreme.

Posted by NightLight on February 11, 2009 at 12:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Some have suggested that if the races and sexual orientation of the boys had been different, some people’s reaction would be different. Here is another scenario. A teenaged middle school boy sexually harasses a teenaged middle school girl. No physical violence, but verbal harassment and lewd comments that humiliate her in front of her friends and classmates. School administrators don’t intervene, either they don’t want to get involved or they have the “boys will be boys” mentality. The girl can’t take it anymore, brings a gun to class, and shoots the boy dead. What do you think the public reaction would be in that case? Those who are saying Larry brought it on himself, would they be saying the same thing about the boy in this case?

My usual response to comments like the first two is that I’ve been hit on by heterosexual women on occasion. (And, no, the sight of a wedding ring and the presence of a baby did not deter them, and in fact may have encouraged them.) In every case, I ignored or politely laughed off the attention. (Keeping in mind of course, that it was not threatening at any point.) But, according to the first two comments above, would I have been justified in a more violent response to such undesired attention? Or is it “different” somehow?

At what point does unwelcome attention warrant a defense, or even murder? Roberto Duncanson was killed when another man objected to how he thought Duncason was looking at him. Tiffany Berry’s killer (who was later charged with the murder of his own two-year-old daughter, objcted to how Berry had “touched” him. Kevin Aviance suffered a beating that left him with cuts, bruises, and a broken jaw for the offense of saying three words — “Calm down, sweetie” — to an attacker whose worst fear was that his friends would think him a “pussy.” Dwan Prince received a beating that left him in a coma for 

And, as I pointed out before, there is a point at which flirtation itself become a defense, usually at the point where winning a physical altercation is unlikely and the only other option is to just “take it”. (In fact, sometimes I think the violence is response to the failure or refusal to just “take it.”)

By all accounts, Roberto Duncanson didn’t just “take it,” when his attacker became enraged that Duncanson man have looked at him. He threw off a smart remark in reply and kept walking, even as his would-be attacker followed him, shouting anti-gay epithets. When his attacker finally struck him, Roberto Duncanson struck back, and as a result was killed.

Like Jimmy Lee Dean, hate crime charges were dropped in the case against his killer. But what was Roberto Duncanson’s murder if not a hate crime?

Roberto Duncanson (1987 – May 12, 2007) was an African American gay man from Brooklyn, New York. On May 12, 2007, he was stabbed to death by Omar Willock, who claimed Duncanson had flirted with him.


Duncanson, 20, worked at CVS in Chelsea, New York, for 18 months. According to his mother, he had plans to go to Miami to celebrate his 21st birthday, and was planning to go back to school to become an x-ray technician.1)

On May 12, 2007, Duncanson and Omar Willock, 17, passed each other on St. Mark’s Avenue in Crown Heights. Willock reportedly became enraged, yelled “What are you looking at, f—-r?”2) and started shouting anti-gay slurs at Duncanson.3) Willock accused Williams of looking at him, in a way he interpreted as flirting. It’s unclear how Willock knew Duncanson was gay.4)

Duncanson walked away, and continued on his way to visit a cousin on Brooklyn Avenue. Willock allegedly followed Duncanson to his cousin’s house, and waited for him to come out. When Duncanson emerged from the house, Willock continued following him.5)

The Murder

As Duncanson kept walking, Willock followed and continued to yell anti-gay epithets at Duncanson. Willock then started a fist fight with Duncanson.6) The fight ended when Willock took out a knife and stabbed Duncanson as he tried to walk away.7) Paramedics found Duncanson on the sidewalk.8) He had been stabbed in the back four times.9)

Duncanson’s cousin, Jeimar Brown, witness the fight and would later testify in court about it. The man accused Duncan of looking at him. Duncanson responded by saying “Batty boy, you look like somebody wants to suck your dick.” Brown said the man, whom he did not know, followed them down the street, continuing to taunt Duncanson, until the two came to blows. Brown said that after the assailant struck him Duncanson struck back. It wasn’t until Brown and two girls were able to pull the men apart that Brown saw the knife. At that point, the assailant fled. Duncanson, bleeding, collapsed onto the sidewalk, striking his head on a street sign. Brown cradled him as he called 911 on his cell phone.10)

The Aftermath

Duncanson was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he died an hour later.11)

On May 14th, a witness – Belinda Toon, 21, came forward and identified Willock as the killer. At this point, detectives learned that Willock had an identical twin brother, Omari Willock. Toon claimed to hvae known the twins for a year prior to Duncanson’s murder.

Toon gave detective Thomas McKeirnan a first name and address for Willock. McKeirnan showed Toon a initial photo line-up that included Omar Willock but not Omari Willock. The witness identified the photo as Omari Willock. The detetive created a second photo line-up including Omar, but not Omari, and Toon identified Omar Willock as the killer.12)

Willock surrendered at Brooklyn’s 17th precinct on May 17, accompanied by a lawyer. He never gave a statement to police and the buying guide on knife sharpeners used on his blade in the murder was never found. Toon picked Willock out of a line-up at the 17th precinct on May 17. Duncanson’s cousin, Jeimar Brown, who witnessed the attack, viewed the line-up, but was unable to identify Willcok.13) Willock was charged with second degree murder and second degree murder as a hate crime.


On February 5, 2009, Judge Neil J. Fiertog ruled that the Brooklyn district attorney could use results from photo identification line-up in its case against Willock, denying the defense request to surpess the photo idenfication line-up.14)

Willock’s murder trial began on March 11, 2009.15) Toon and Brown were witnesses for the prosecution. Toon identified Willock as the man who argued with Duncanson on the evening of May 12, 2007. Toon did not say that she saw Willock stab Duncanson. Brown testified as an eyewitness to the fight and the stabbing. Toon and Brown identified themselves on a videotape of the incident, though the fight took place off camera. 16) On March 12, 2009, the judge granted the defense motion to toss the hate crime charge, leaving the jury to deliverate the second- and first-degree murder charge. That hate crime charge would ahve increased the minimum sentence if Willock is convicted. Instead, the minimum sentence is 15 to life, though the average times served is under 25 years. The jury received the case in on March 12, and began its deliberations.17)

One Comment

  1. Ugh. “If they didn’t flaunt it so much”….

    I think I’ll go bang my head against a wall now.

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