How a Park Arrest Ended in a Death

One of area of concern about how gay issues are covered in the media has always involved coverage of “park cruising” and police stings.  Names and picture of suspects, irresponsible explanations of what is going on, you name it.

Those problems don’t necessarily haunt the New York Times story of the death of DeFarra Gaymon, who was shot by a sheriff’s deputy at a park known for men cruising for sex with other men, but the story raises many issues nonetheless. The killing has been covered by the Wall Street Journal, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Newark Star-Ledger, and other outlets.

A fatal shooting in Newark on a Friday night is hardly a rare occurrence, but this was neither the usual spot nor the usual suspects, leaving many questions.

The officer, whose name was not released because of his undercover work, had been on what is not usually a particularly dangerous assignment, scouring the park, in northern Newark, for men seeking sex.

Mr. Gaymon was a successful businessman, the president and chief executive of Credit Union of Atlanta. On the Web site of the Credit Union Executives Society, Mr. Gaymon said his “ultimate career goals” were to lead a $150-million-plus credit union and provide “financial literacy programs that help employees and members become financially savvy.”

He added, “It’s just my passion to share information that can change a person’s financial life.”

Mr. Gaymon was one of the organizers of the reunion, which he drove up to attend. “All the people that knew him say you never met a kinder, nicer, more gentle person, and they’re stunned about what happened,” said John Joyce, the president of the Montclair High School Alumni Association.

The officer and his partner were patrolling the park in plain clothes, part of an operation that has been going on for years, said Mr. Laurino, the prosecutor.

The family questions the account of the officer, saying Gaymon wasn’t violent and not likely to resist an arrest, but interestingly don’t challenge the report that the married father of four was cruising for sex with men.

I don’t find much wrong with the journalism so far.  Reporters really only have the police and prosecutor’s reports to go on so they are limited in what they can tell about the story.  The family is talking in Atlanta, where Gaymon was from, but journalists in New York need to work to include the family’s view that the cop is lying.

I’d also like to see more reporting on why Gaymon ended up there. Rob Smith at Huffington Post has a provocative post about how “black homophobia now has a body count” and attribute’s Gaymon’s cruising to homophobia in the black community.

There also should be reporting on why these kinds of stings are used to begin with.  This kind of policing is defensible, of course, but when it ends up in the kililng of an unarmed man it raises questions about the necessity for these kinds of actions.

It would also be interesting to see reporting on why park cruising still exists, even in a NYC suburb, and understand it’s role in “gay” culture.

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