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NYC Gay Bashing Pits
Victims Against Theater Chain

NYC Gay Bashing Pits
Victims Against Theater Chain


Two victims of an alleged hate crime outside a popular New York City movie theater want the theater's staff to accept the blame for ignoring their repeated requests for help.

Efosa Agbontaen and Branden McGillvery-Dummett expected a good scare when they decided to see a horror film in Manhattan one recent night, but they hardly imagined they would be confronted with the fright of their lives. The couple allege that four male teenagers spewing antigay slurs attacked them with glass bottles and a box cutter on February 15, following harassment that management failed to address during a screening of Friday the 13th at the Regal Union Square Stadium 14.

Agbontaen and McGillvery-Dummett, who live in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, sustained minor injuries, including cuts and bruises to the face and head, that were treated at a local hospital. The New York City Police Department is investigating the attack as a hate crime, given the apparent catalyst of the victims' sexual orientation.

"It all comes down to the motivation," said Lt. Mike Wysokowsi, an NYPD spokesman, who declined to discuss details of the ongoing investigation. "Why is something happening to a person?"

Although the attack occurred about a block from the popular multiplex in Union Square after the film ended, Agbontaen says the suspects targeted him and his boyfriend as soon as the lights went down in the crowded auditorium.

"We had a mini-argument over the cell phone while the previews were happening," he said. "You can tell when the people having an argument are a couple. There's a chemistry."

Immediately afterward, he says, they sensed disturbances from the row behind them near the front of the theater.

"They were saying 'faggot' and kicking the chair," said Agbontaen, who turned and asked the rambunctious quartet to stop, to no avail. "It continued over and over and over."

Agbontaen went to alert the manager, who arrived to evaluate the situation with an usher just as two of the teenagers moved to other seats. The manager concluded that everything was under control, though McGillvery-Dummett insists he tried to indicate otherwise.

"I was gesturing him to come," he said. "I was telling him where they were. He just looked and walked out."

Unsatisfied, McGillvery-Dummett left the auditorium to notify the manager again. He says he explained clearly that he and his boyfriend were being threatened with antigay remarks.

"He looked at me and said there was nothing he could do," McGillvery-Dummett recalls. "He rolled his eyes, and he fanned me down. He walked away while I was talking."

McGillvery-Dummett returned to his seat, where for the remainder of the film things were calm, if anxious.

"You can't be comfortable when people have been saying things like that," says Agbontaen. "Your head is in another place."

Once the movie finished, the young men resumed their taunts. They surrounded Agbontaen and McGillvery-Dummett on the escalator, and called them "homos" and "snitches."

"I told them, 'I'm a grown man, I don't have time for you,'" says Agbontaen, who is 20. "One of the guys said, 'If you're so grown, meet me outside.'"

Agbontaen and McGillvery-Dummett say they ignored the challenge and felt relieved to see their tormenters exit the theater in the opposite direction. But moments later the group caught up with them on 14th Street between University Place and Fifth Avenue, carrying glass bottles and what appeared to be a box cutter.

One of the attackers struck McGillvery-Dummett, 24, in the head with a glass bottle, rendering him nearly unconscious. Agbontaen's face was sliced with the box cutter, creating a bloody sight that seemed to startle the assailants, who halted the attack and fled.

The four suspects, still at large, are described as being between the ages of 14 and 16, with medium builds. The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force continues to investigate.

While his injuries healed rapidly, McGillver-Dummett says the experience left him with deeper, lingering doubts.

"To tell you the truth," he says, "my sexuality was not something I was totally comfortable with before this. It kind of makes me retreat a little."

A spokesman for Regal Entertainment Group, which operates the Regal Union Square Stadium 14, said the Knoxville, TN-based company is undertaking an internal assessment of what took place at the theater.

"We are conducting an investigation, and any incident of this nature warrants and has and will receive our undivided attention," said Dick Westerling, senior vice president for marketing. "We have been engaged with our management and staff to investigate this situation."

Westerling defended the initial evaluation of the manager on duty that evening.

"According to our managers, they discussed it with the gentleman who complained, and he said they were comfortable and would continue to watch the movie," Westerling said.

He offered no immediate comment about the victims' second appeal to management, which allegedly involved the dismissive eye roll.

Westerling also challenged claims that the attackers were underage and allowed into an R-rated film because one of them was related to a theater employee, as the victims believe they overheard. He said the Union Square location has never experienced a problem of this sort before.

Agbontaen and McGillvery-Dummett find the explanations inadequate thus far.

"We want the kids to be caught," says Agbontaen, "We would like the theater to take responsibility. They should have done something about those kids."

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