The brutal murder of Chattanooga pastor David Strong, allegedly at the hands of a mentally disturbed man and his 16-year-old cousin, might be more than just a ATM robbery gone wrong. Strong might’ve been gay, say police, and that could have been a motivating factor.
Strong, a pastor at St. Paul AME Church, was beaten, stabbed, and strangled before his throat was slit — allegedly at the hands of Antonio Henry, 25, and cousin Brendan Barnes. His body was found his home Sunday, days after his murder. Henry’s rap sheet is disturbing: charges of pulling out a girl’s braids; swinging a crow bar at a man’s head. He twice tried committing suicide, once by self-immolation, and has a history of schizophrenia and other mental disorders.
How did these two men come to supposedly end the pastor’s life? Because Strong wouldn’t give up the pin to his debit card at an ATM, resulting “one of the most brutal” crimes of the year, according to Chattanooga Assistant Police Chief Tim Carroll, who says Henry and Strong knew each other for years. But what’s this about the victim begin gay?
“The possibility existed that Rev. Strong was gay,” says Lt. Kirk Eidson, the Chattanooga Police’s major crimes chief. “We’re exploring that. We are currently investigating as to any type of motivating factor of that nature. … Even if that would be the case, they planned a robbery, and they still killed him.”
Is that just a poorly phrased quote? That Strong died because he is gay? In a gay bashing? Or is Lt. Kirk Eidson saying there was a sexual element to the crime?
The blog Rod 2.0 says “the Chattanooga Police Department is posthumously outing Rev. Strong.” (Let’s be clear: Stating somebody’s sexuality is not defamatory. Moreover, you cannot legally defame somebody after he is dead. But yes, it is an outing if Strong wasn’t open.) That could open up the “gay panic” defense, infamous among defense attorneys who try excusing their clients’ behavior by saying they were only responding to some homo’s advances.
And while putting it in the public record that Strong might be gay could set up that possibility, we could also be looking at a bias-related crime. Which means federal hate crime charges could be attached to any prosecution of Henry and Barnes. And if it is known that Strong was gay and police didn’t look at that angle, we’d be shouting about how they dropped the ball.
So let’s see how this plays out. In the meantime, last night “hundreds” attended a funeral for Strong.