A national LGBT anti-violence group and its Raleigh chapter responded Tuesday to a brutal homicide in Greensboro last week. The group, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) is calling for a full investigation in the attack resulting in the death of gay veteran Stephen White at the hands of a suspect he met at a local gay bar.

Stephen White

“Far too often we see LGBTQ people targeted for robbery and extreme or fatal violence when hooking up,” Osman Ahmed, NCAVP research and education coordinator at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said in a press release on Tuesday. “It is imperative that the Greensboro police take this investigation seriously and consider all possible motives from this horrific homicide – including the possibility that there was a bias motivation in this case.”

White’s attacker, 26-year-old Garry Gupton, is charged with first-degree murder. Police reports and court documents reveal that Gupton met White at a local gay bar on the evenign of Nov. 8 and returned with him to a nearby hotel in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. At 4:30 a.m. that morning, hotel employees called 911 after hearing a man screaming and a fire alarm. White was found naked, severely beaten and on fire. Gupton was arrested at the scene. White, hospitalized in intensive care in Winston-Salem, passed away on Nov. 15.

All the details of the case aren’t clear, but Greensboro police have said the incidents between White and Gupton began as a consensual sexual encounter. They’ve also said there is no evidence to believe the crime was motivated by hatred.

NCAVP, however, pointed out Tuesday that so-called hook-up related violence “can be connected to overlapping forms of violence, including hate violence, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence.”

The national group is working through a local member organization, Raleigh’s Rainbow Community Cares, to keep tabs on the crime and raise awareness.

“Stephen White’s death is a loss especially felt by those closest to him, to family and friends,” said J Zirbel of Rainbow Community Cares. “The pain in loss and the fear in the aftermath of the violence touches us across the country. We need to advocate for appropriately addressing hate violence against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.”

Local officials have seemed to be taking the crime and its investigation seriously. Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan attended a fundraiser for White on Saturday and had earlier issued a statement following news of the crime.

“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,” Vaughan’s Nov. 13 statement read. “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. I encourage everyone to join me in keeping the victim and his family in our thoughts.”

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.