Roanoke, VA - Danny Lee Overstreet of Roanoke is dead today and six others were wounded by a single gunman who said he wanted to shoot gay people opened fire in a gay bar. The suspect walked into the Back Street Cafe late Friday night, ordered a beer and after a few minutes, pulled a handgun from his coat and fired repeatedly, said Roanoke police spokeswoman Shelly Alley. Seven of the 25 people in the bar were hit. Two remain in serious condition.
Ronald Edward Gay, 53, was charged with murder, and police are investigating the shooting as a hate crime. Earlier in the evening, police said Gay visited a different bar and asked people where the gay bar was, telling witnesses that he wanted to shoot some gay people. A witness pointed him in the right direction, and then called police. Police arrested Gay moments after the shooting away from the bar. Gay's address is listed in Citrus Springs, Fla., but police said he had actually been living in Roanoke for about a year. He is being held without bond at the Roanoke City Jail. Shirley Lesser of Virginians for Justice, an NCAVP member group was dispatched to Roanoke to assist the victims, survivors and local community.
"This is yet another example of the hatred and violence that lesbian and gay people fear and face daily," said Jeffrey Montgomery of Detroit's Triangle Foundation, another NCAVP member group. "This fear is heightened away from the nation's big city's in places like Roanoke," continued Montgomery.
"We are encouraged that the local police are investigating this as a hate crime and are looking forward to the results of the investigation," said Montgomery.
"What's incredible is just how vulnerable we are made to be in our spaces and neighborhoods," said Clarence Patton of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, another NCAVP member. "In recent years, fire and nail bombs have gone off at gay bars in Atlanta and London and now this. Not only did this individual seek out 'gay people' to shoot, he actually felt comfortable enough to tell people in another bar what he wanted to do, get information from them to facilitate his mission, and follow through on it," continued Patton.
"We commend, the folks that called the police, but have to ask if it might not have been a better strategy and if Mr. Overstreet might still be with us if they had denied knowledge of a gay bar's whereabouts," concluded Patton.