By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com May 13 2003 11:00 PM ET
A teenager waiting at a bus stop in Newark, N.J., early Sunday morning was fatally stabbed after telling two men who were making sexual advances toward her that she was a lesbian, according to police. The Essex County prosecutor's office on Monday determined that Sakia Gunn, 15, of Newark, was the victim of a bias crime, which would increase the penalties if the attackers are convicted. Lt. Derek Glenn, a spokesman for the Newark Police Department, said charges would include felony murder.
Gunn and a group of friends had taken a train from New York City's Greenwich Village to Newark Penn Station and were waiting for a bus when two men drove up around 3:30 a.m. Sunday and made sexual overtures toward them, Glenn said. Glenn said the girls, ages 15-17, rebuffed the men and said they were lesbians. Gunn was stabbed in the scuffle that ensued, Glenn said. "They made it clear that they weren't interested," Glenn said. "At some point during their interaction, they made their sexual orientation known."
Gunn's friends flagged down a motorist, who drove the teenager to University Hospital in Newark, where she died a short time later. It was not immediately clear whether she had been stabbed more than once. It does not appear that any of the other girls or the two attackers were injured in the brawl. Glenn said the men, who fled in a white station wagon, were described as African-American and were wearing white T-shirts and blue jeans. One man was about 5 feet 11 inches tall, with a stocky build and hair in dreadlocks or braids, while the other was 5 feet 9 inches tall with a medium build and a cornrow hairstyle. Police issued a warrant Tuesday for a 29-year-old man named Richard McCullough.
Michael Adams, a lawyer with gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in Manhattan, said he is outraged but not surprised by the stabbing. "It is, sadly, not that unusual for men who make overtures to lesbians to respond with hostility and sometimes even with violence in these kinds of situations," he said. Richard Haynes, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Program, said he is not aware of another case in the New York metropolitan region in which a woman has been killed because of her sexual orientation. "We've certainly had women who were brutally attacked," Haynes said. "We hear of these cases more often among transgendered women, when the men discover the kind of woman they've been flirting with."