On the morning of October 31, 22-year-old Dionte Greene (pictured) of Kanas City, Missouri was shot in the face while sitting in the driver seat of his idling car. His suspected killer? An allegedly “straight” man who may have agreed to meet him for sex.
“My son … he was quiet – not a problem child,” Dionte’s mother, Coshelle Greene, told Zach Stafford at The Guardian in an interview late last month. “Being that he wasn’t a street person, and didn’t have enemies, I lean towards it having to be someone who was on the down low or someone so against gay people that they would do this.”
According to sources, the day before he was killed, Greene planned to attend a “turn-about” party where people show up dressed as the opposite gender. Friends say he had been chatting with a man online who claimed to be “on the down low.” The man was reportedly unsure about hooking up with Greene. Ultimately, however, he did agree to meet with him in a quiet residential area near the young man’s home.
Greene was on the phone with a friend when the man approached his car.
“He looks just like his Facebook picture,” he allegedly told the friend.
Then the friend reported hearing yelling before the line went dead.
Greene’s mother told Stafford she now fears that since her son’s body was discovered in a low-income, high-crime area that is predominantly black, police will classify the case as just another “black on black” crime rather than what she believes it really is: a hate crime. She thinks her son was murdered because he was gay, and that his murderer wasn’t sure if he wanted to be.
Kansas City Police Cepartment’s recently appointed LGBT liaison, Rebecca Caster, an out lesbian, said it’s unlikely this will be investigated as a hate crime because Greene’s murderer had been meeting him for sex.
“If someone is actually engaged in ‘the act,’ then these are not hate crimes,” she said. “The thing is, hate crimes need to be, ‘I can’t stand the fact that you are gay so I am going to drag you behind a truck. I don’t know you, I don’t care.'”
But Stafford disagrees, saying that, “homophobia [is] not just something that makes someone drag you behind a truck, but [is] a sickness that can make someone kiss and then kill–simply because someone didn’t want their secret to get out.”
He then notes that Greene’s murder is one of at least seven similar cases involving LGBT people in Kansas City since 2010 that were also not classified as hate crimes.
Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University, pointed out why making the hate crime distinction is important in a case like this.
“Hate crimes are message crimes, and hate-crime laws send a message back,” he said. “They send a message to the perpetrator that we do not encourage or support him–that we don’t agree with his intolerance.”
Of course, before any charges can be made, a suspect needs to be apprehended. Over more than a month after Greene’s murder, police still have not made any arrests.
“It’s been really tough,” Greene’s friend, Star Palmer, said. “This shouldn’t have happened to him. Not Dionte.”