The family of a young black gay man shot dead in his car are appealing for it to be treated as a hate crime.
Dionte Greene, 22, was shot in the face while sitting in the front seat of his car during the early hours of Halloween (Saturday 31 October) in Kansas City, Missouri.
Mr Greene’s family and friends believe he was murdered due to his sexual orientation by a man on the “down-low” – a term used by members of the black community to describe men who have sex with men (MSM) who are not out about their same-sex sexual activity.
Friends say Mr Greene had agreed online to meet the individual for sex and claim the killer could have carried out the killing as an act of self-loathing over his own sexual orientation.
When Mr Greene arrived at the pre-arranged meeting spot in a quiet residential area just miles north of his home, he was on the phone with a friend who could sense that Mr Greene was a nervous about the meeting.
According to other friends with knowledge of the conversation, the man started walking towards Mr Greene’s car. “He looks just like his Facebook picture,” Mr Greene allegedly said.
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Moments later, yelling was heard, the phone line then went dead.
There have been no charges or arrests yet in the case.
“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,” the victim’s mother, Coshelle Greene, told The Guardian.
Rebecca Caster, an LGBT liaison officer with Kansas City police, who is openly lesbian, said the killing did not amount to a hate crime.
She stated: “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.’”
Following the decision this month not to charge a white policeman who killed a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, the debate on how US law enforcement treats crimes against the black community and other minority groups continues to loom large in America.
Some fear the case of Dionte Greene could have echoes of Ferguson.
“With biased crimes, it seems like pulling teeth to get them to check that extra box in the paperwork,” said Justin Shaw, executive director of the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project. “We hear so many incidents that happen and get labelled simple assault when there is an obvious hate component – it feels as if we are stuck in a paperwork cycle with people’s lives.”
A Kansas City police spokesperson said Mr Green’s death would be prosecuted as a hate crime if there is “enough evidence”.