Gay student attacked at Howard University

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com September 06 2002 11:00 PM ET

Washington, D.C.'s Howard University is investigating allegations that a gay student was beaten and taunted by several members of the school's marching band, reports The Washington Post.

Darryl Payton, 18, said he was attacked Tuesday night and was treated at the university's hospital for injuries including a swollen jaw and bruises--one with the imprint of a trumpet valve.

A Howard instructor said he tried to be a peacemaker and was punched in the face even after he had identified himself as a staff member. "I was really surprised," said Luqman Salim, an instructor and technician in the theater program. "What they did was crazy."

No one has been arrested. University spokeswoman J.J. Pryor confirmed that school officials are investigating the allegations for possible disciplinary action, but she said it would be "inappropriate" to discuss specifics. John E. Newson, director of Howard's bands, declined comment.

Payton, a sophomore from Los Angeles, said he was leaving the fine arts building at about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday when he encountered several of the band's horn players practicing in the hallway. After he accidentally bumped into a female band member, Payton said, other band members started shouting "Faggot!" and other antigay slurs. As he tried to walk through, he said, a group crowded around him. Salim, a foreman in the theater's costume shop, said he happened on the scene as the group seemed to be closing in on Payton. "They were about to attack him," Salim said. "I said, 'Hey, I work here. What's the problem?' "

Instead of backing off, Payton and Salim said, some band members starting hitting them with fists and musical instruments. "We were up against a wall," Payton said. "We were bent over, and they were hitting our backs."

Campus police officers went to the scene and took a report. Both Payton and Salim complained that officers did not make immediate arrests. But Salim said Thursday that he has met with administrators and that it appears the school is taking the matter seriously.
It was unclear whether campus officials would take action against anyone--or, if so, what the action might be. Although D.C. police reserve the right to investigate possible crimes on campuses, they often defer to campus officials, who are able to use punishments such as suspension or expulsion to deal with infractions that might not be suited to criminal prosecution.

A D.C. police spokesman confirmed that an officer visited Payton in the hospital. He said that although the campus police are handling the matter, the D.C. police gay and lesbian liaison unit has offered to assist in the investigation.