By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The last thing Gregory Beauchamp did was get ready for a New Year's Eve party.
He was walking to an Over-the-Rhine bar with friends, two of whom were men dressed in women's clothes. A Cadillac pulled up near Vine and Liberty streets. Anti-gay epithets flew.
Curtis Johnson holds a photograph of his friend, Gregory Beauchamp, who was killed Dec. 31 at Vine and Liberty streets.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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Someone in the car fired a gun, sending Mr. Beauchamp to the morgue as Cincinnati's 65th, and last, homicide victim of 2002.
The gay rights group Stonewall Cincinnati wrote a letter to Police Chief Tom Streicher asking him to see that the case is thoroughly investigated. They've also contacted the city's Human Relations Commission and the FBI.
Mr. Beauchamp's friends want justice for the 21-year-old gay man.
"He just died, in the street - it's terrible,'' said Curtis Johnson, a friend who was getting ready to meet Mr. Beauchamp at the party when his friend was shot. "I just want people to know he's more than just the 65th homicide victim.
"He loved clothes, music, he could sew. He was just a good person.''
Stonewall wants that, too, plus something bigger - attention to how often gay people are victimized and to what members see as a need for effective national legislation that covers actual and perceived sexual-identity hate crimes.
"This sends a threat message to the whole community of Over-the-Rhine and to the whole city,'' said Doreen Cudnik, a Stonewall board member.
"That is that if you don't conform to the expectations of wherever you live, you can be killed.
"In this environment, the gay man is the lowest of the low.''
The case is drawing attention also from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, a national group based in Los Angeles that tracks similar incidents and promotes fair media coverage of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Michael Young, a regional media manager for the group, echoed Ms. Cudnik's concerns about the message - and the media portrayal of it - such an attack sends.
Overall crime motivated by hate rose nationally just over 17 percent from 2000 to 2001, the latest statistics compiled by the FBI. That jump is partially a result of an increase in the number of law-enforcement agencies supplying hate crime data to the FBI.
In Ohio, there were 477 hate crimes reported by police in 2001 - and 22 percent of them involved assaults, according to the FBI.
While police have an idea who killed Mr. Beauchamp, they have not released the names of any suspects or made any arrests. The case is logged as a suspected hate crime.
The four people with Mr. Beauchamp the night he was killed are traumatized and afraid for their safety, both Mr. Johnson and Ms. Cudnik said. She hopes Stonewall can act as a liaison between the witnesses and police to help draw out more information for detectives to use.
For Mr. Johnson, 24, the focus is more personal. He and Mr. Beauchamp met about five years ago at The Warehouse in Over-the-Rhine, where they would dance from 10 p.m. to nearly dawn. Mr. Beauchamp's favorite singer was Erykah Badu.More recently, they talked about their common interest - fashion design. Mr. Johnson is studying fashion design at Cincinnati State and Mr. Beauchamp hoped to move to California to study it there.
"This one time, he took these pants and bleached the pockets and the cuffs,'' he said. "Then he took safety pins and put them all the way up the leg. It looked like something the MTV generation would wear.
"I just knew one day he'd call me and say he was dressing Halle Berry or something.''
Mr. Beauchamp, who lived in English Woods, had recently gotten his certificate to move into Section 8 housing, Mr. Johnson said. He planned to move to Northern Kentucky.
"He wanted a better life,'' Mr. Johnson said. "Being black and gay in Cincinnati is tough. It's just not cutting it.''
Stonewall members are pleased, Ms. Cudnik said, with the cooperation they're getting from police. She has spoken with one of the detectives working on the case, Keith Witherell, and hopes to meet with him and another investigator this week to talk about what the group can do to help.
"It's about life having value,'' Ms. Cudnik said, "and every life having value.''
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