Op-ed: Hate Could Be Motive in Tragedy That Hit Texas

The founder of Truth Wins Out says when gays and lesbians are victims, police should never be quick to dismiss hate as a motive.



Mary Chapa and Mollie Olgin
Mary Chapa and Mollie Olgin

When I first heard that a gunman had shot a teenage lesbian couple in Portland, Texas, I pictured a small, backward town reminiscent of the one in the movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The crime scene, however, did not match the picture I had conjured on the plane ride from Vermont to Texas. I was headed for a vigil that would follow the funeral of 19-year-old Mollie Olgin, who was shot in the head. Her girlfriend of five months, Mary Chapa, 18, was also shot in the head, but survived and is recovering in the hospital.
What made this tragedy more chilling was that it occurred at Violet Andrews Park, which is in an upper-middle-class suburb of Corpus Christi. The exquisitely manicured bayside nature preserve was not secluded, as one would imagine, but surrounded by tony waterfront homes and had a well-maintained trail that passed by a charming children’s playground. As I walked through the park, several families strolled with their children to various scenic overlooks to peer at Corpus Christi Bay.
Violet Andrews Park is the type of serene refuge that people visit to get over the death of a loved one, not the type of place where people are brutally murdered. Surely, a violent encounter was the last thing on the minds of Olgin and Chapa when they went to the park last Friday to waste time before a movie.  
What happened next is still a mystery. But we do know that the girls were led into a mud-soaked, grassy trail where both were shot in the head with a high-caliber pistol. Police describe the suspect as a white male in his 20s with dark hair, standing 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing about 140 pounds.
While in town I visited the Portland Police Department, where I was handed a generic statement that read, “There continues to be no evidence that the attack was motivated by the victims’ sexual orientation.”

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