The 911 call was made at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, November 9. An employee at the Battleground Inn in Greensboro, N.C. reported an erratic man screaming on the premises.
“Some guy over here, he just flipped out,” the employee said. “He’s running around.”
Moments later, the hotel’s fire alarm sounded.
The man was 26-year-old Garry Joseph Gupton, who was described by the employee as shirtless and shouting obscenities. He then reportedly knocked over a computer before disappearing out the hotel’s front doors.
Authorities arrived at the scene minutes later to find 46-year-old Stephen Patrick White naked, robbed, beaten with a desk phone and large television, and set ablaze in room 417. He was rushed to the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he was treated for smoke inhalation, burns, and other injuries.
According to police, White met Gupton at the Chemistry Nightclub, a local bar in Greensboro, on Saturday, November 8. Hours later, the two men checked into a room at The Battleground Inn. It’s unclear what happened next or what motivated Gupton to assault White.
“I am just in awe of the magnitude of the hate that is involved and I truly do not believe [Gupton] has a soul,” Riki Dubin, a friend of White, told WFMY News. “I just couldn’t ever imagine any human treating another human like that.”
Last Thursday, the Greensboro Police Department announced it was not considering the assault a hate crime.
“There’s no evidence the victim was targeted based on his sexual orientation,” said assistant district attorney Howard Neumann.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan issued a statement that read, in part:
The Greensboro Police Department is working diligently to investigate this crime and while reports indicate this is not a LGBT hate-related crime, any violent crime is tragic and unacceptable. I understand the concerns of the residents of Greensboro, including the LGBT community. Greensboro prides itself on being an inclusive community that shows respect, compassion and understanding to everyone and Greensboro City Council is firmly committed to ensuring the city is safe and welcoming for residents and visitors alike.
White did not have health insurance, so his friends organized a fundraiser for him on Saturday, November 15 at a local gay bar in Greensboro. They raised over $10,000.
Later that same day, however, White died following complications from his injuries.
As a result, Gupton is now facing first-degree murder charges. During his hearing this week, which reportedly lasted less than 5 minutes, he stared blankly and gave short, one-word answers when asked by a judge whether he understood the charges. He remains in jail without bail. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
White was a U.S. Army veteran. According to his family members, he was first stationed in Korea from the late 1980s until the early 1990s. Upon returning home, he obtained a degree in Criminal Justice from Guilford College. In 2005, he worked for Blackwater for six months in Iraq. While there, he was injured when he was hit by a mortar, which resulted in the loss of part of his leg.
White’s family released the following statement to the community:
“The family of Stephen White wishes to express sincere appreciation for all the prayers, love, and support. We are grateful for all the first responders and medical personnel who came to his aid. We are thankful for all those who organized and participated in the fundraisers on Stephen’s behalf. Please continue to keep our family in your prayers during this difficult time.”