ONTD Political

Leaders urge caution after third gay man found strangled to death

2:32 am - 02/13/2013
Two Queens men and one Manhattan man found dead; police say cases do not appear to be linked but two of them may have met their attackers online

The recent strangulation deaths of three middle-aged gay men in Queens and Manhattan has the city’s gay community on edge, though authorities say they do not appear to be linked.

Elected officials urged the community on Tuesday to take precautions when meeting someone for the first time as police said two of the victims may have met their attackers online.

“It’s frightening,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who is openly gay. “I fear that there could be somebody out there targeting gay men.”

“People need to exercise extreme caution,” Dromm said.

The latest victim, Joseph Benzinger, 54, of Middle Village, was found strangled to death late Saturday night at the Crown Motor Inn in Elmhurst.

Queens middle school teacher David Rangel, 53, was discovered dead in his Jackson Heights apartment on Jan. 26. Two days later, Charles Romo, 48, was found tied up with a bag over his head in his apartment in Hamilton Heights, Manhattan.

Violence in the city’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community jumped 13% from 2010 to 2011, despite a national 16% drop during the same time, according to a national report produced by the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

Ejeris Dixon, a deputy director of the group, said she’s seen a recent increase in reported cases of pick-up violence — a term used for when people go home together after meeting for the first time online or in a bar.

“People feel that they need to hide the fact that they’re meeting someone online and that’s the problem,” she said. “Let people know who you are going to meet, where you are going to meet and meet in a public place.”

Her group is having a session at 8 p.m. Wednesday on safe online pick-ups at Make the Road New York in Jackson Heights.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), who is also openly gay, expressed her condolences to the families of the victims and urged the gay community to protect itself.

“The perpetrators must be apprehended and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” she said in a statement.

Anyone with information on the murders can call the NYPD Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.

glamoursnipe 13th-Feb-2013 12:39 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a real-life episode of Law & Order: SVU.

All snide commentary aside, fingers crossed that the asshole is brought to justice and the families find the support they need to help them move forward.

tabaqui 13th-Feb-2013 12:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's creepy and scary. And yes - people need to quit doing the online thing all sneaky and ashamed - just say what you're doing and where to at least *one person* - start a group to exchange info, anything.

It's worth a bit of embarrassment (though nobody should be) to be safe.
kitanabychoice 13th-Feb-2013 03:35 pm (UTC)
There's still so much stigma around meeting people online somehow, I understand why people feel a bit ashamed. I mean, I met my current live-in boyfriend through an online site but I always get weird looks if I say "we met on the internet" to people who ask us how we got together. It's still, for many people, not an acceptable way to find friends. :|

It's so sad this has happened, though, it's always been a fear of mine.
ennifer_jay 13th-Feb-2013 05:41 pm (UTC)
I've been told that there's no way I can find ~true friends~ online. Lol ok.
tabaqui 13th-Feb-2013 07:06 pm (UTC)
I guess its this whole 'met online = were having kinky sex over a cam' or something, but sheesh - even if you *were* - who should care? People worry way too much about other people's private lives.
redstar826 14th-Feb-2013 12:43 am (UTC)
in this case though, it is just stigma about meeting people online or is it that these guys aren't fully out so they don't feel comfortable going to places where they can meet other gay people? And if you aren't out to your circle of friends, you are probably not going to tell them that you are meeting up with someone of the same-sex you met online.
zombieroadtrip +114th-Feb-2013 12:25 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised it took so many comments for this. Honestly this strikes me as a hell of a lot more likely than these people being embarrassed about meeting people online.
romp 14th-Feb-2013 04:45 am (UTC)
(I met my wife online 20 years ago but, yeah, we still don't introduce ourselves with that fact)
callmetothejedi 13th-Feb-2013 01:30 pm (UTC)
I hope that they find the person or persons responsible. :-/ I've met people online, but I've always made the point of telling someone else what I am going to do, and meeting the person in a public place where other people will be.
ennifer_jay 13th-Feb-2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
The reasons why I am glad I ended up not going to NYU continue to rise...
romp 14th-Feb-2013 04:50 am (UTC)
scary :(
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