cruising crapshoots

Married Father DeFarra Gaymon Was Caught Cruising In a Park. Then The Cop Shot Him Dead

DeFarra Gaymon, the married father of four and chief executive of a bank, helped plan his high school’s 30th reunion in New Jersey. He never made it: He was shot to death by an undercover cop hunting down men cruising other dudes for sex in public parks.

Prosecutors on Tuesday claimed Gaymon assaulted the cop and tried to flee when the detective tried to arrest him for, ahem, lewd behavior. The gun shot was in self-defense, they claim. Gaymon’s family likely doesn’t think so, and released this brief statement: “We know that the police killed an innocent man, with no history of or disposition towards violence.” Gaymon had driven to New Jersey from Georgia, where he’s the president and CEO of the Credit Union of Atlanta; peers from his class of 1980 describe him as the most kind, gentle person one could ever meet.

But if you believe the detective who tried arresting Gaymon, who died three hours later at a hospital, it’s a different story. Patrolling Branch Brook Park in Newark (pictured below), where it’s common knowledge gay men cruise (and police have made 200 arrests in the last 18 months, all without incident they say), the detective allegedly caught Gaymon engaged in a sex act, the NYT reports.

The officer and his partner were patrolling the park in plain clothes, part of an operation that has been going on for years, said Mr. Laurino, the prosecutor. Around 6 p.m., after chasing down a man and arresting him, the officer realized he had lost his handcuffs in the pursuit and went back into the woods, alone, to retrieve them, the prosecutor said. “The plainclothes officer was bending down to retrieve his handcuffs,” Mr. Laurino said, “when he was approached by Mr. Gaymon, who was engaged in a sexual act at the time.” Words were exchanged that the prosecutor said “would lead one to believe that” Mr. Gaymon was propositioning the officer.

“The officer pulled out his badge, identified himself as a police officer and informed Mr. Gaymon that he was under arrest,” Mr. Laurino said. Then, he said, Mr. Gaymon shoved the officer to the ground and ran, ignored the officer’s demands to stop, and repeatedly threatened to kill the officer if he approached. The officer cornered Mr. Gaymon beside a pond and tried to handcuff him, Mr. Laurino said, but again Mr. Gaymon resisted. “Mr. Gaymon reached into his pocket and lunged at the officer in an attempt to disarm the officer,” Mr. Laurino said. The officer, “fearing for his life,” the prosecutor said, shot Mr. Gaymon once, and he died at the hospital three hours later.

(The WSJ notes further: Gaymon allegedly approached the officer while masturbating.)

If it’s true Gaymon was engaged in sexual activity in a public park, some immediate conclusions can probably be drawn: He was married but closeted, and feared the successful life he had built for himself was about to come crumbling down over some stupid decision. Instead, his life ended. It’s a sad, terrible story, and there are unfortunately even more victims: his wife, his children, and his friends and family.

The detective, who is 29 and has eight years on the force, was uninjured but was sent to a hospital where he was medicated after being “very traumatized.” It marks the fifth police-related shooting in Newark in the past month.

The family wants answers, and so too should the local community: While no police officer should feel so threatened to have to pull his gun (in a perfect world), surely there’s a better way to clean up public parks than whatever strategy they’re using now.

[Star-Ledger; photos: Star-Ledger, NYT]