N.J. Activists Up in Arms Over Police Shooting in Park Sex Sting
New Jersey LGBT groups are demanding answers from local officials after an undercover police officer fatally shot a man suspected of soliciting sex in a Newark park.
Garden State Equality and the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey suspect a police "sting" operation targeting gay men was to blame for the July 16 shooting death of DeFarra "Dean" Gaymon, a 48-year-old married father of four and head of the Credit Union of Atlanta, in Branch Brook Park, a well-known gay cruising ground. And the groups continue to seek answers from both the Essex County’s Sheriff’s Department and the Essex County Prosecutor’s office.
"We believe any operation targeting people based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation would be a violation of state law," the two groups wrote in a letter to the agencies. "New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination expressly outlaws discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. In no way do we condone any violation of lewdness statutes. But any sting operation targeting gay men or LGBT people specifically, or anyone perceived as such, is unconscionable-and as we strongly believe, illegal."
As EDGE previously reported, Gaymon, who was in town to attend his high school reunion, allegedly approached an undercover police officer, exposed himself, and propositioned him for sex on July 16. Police accounts maintain Gaymon threw the officer to the ground and ran away after he attempted to arrest him-and Gaymon reportedly tried to attack the officer after he caught up with him. The officer, who was "fearing for his life", shot him twice.
Gaymon died three hours later in a local hospital. According to published reports, the 29-year-old officer who shot Gaymon was so traumatized by the shooting he was treated with medication and has not returned to duty.
"We’re saddened by this tragedy and our heartfelt condolences go out to his family," said Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura in his early remarks to the press.
A spokeswoman at the Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino’s office told EDGE their investigation is ongoing. And it will continue until the case goes before a Grand jury.
"We didn’t run the operation so we’re not getting into issues of discrimination," added the spokesperson. "Basically we are investigating the shooting and will present it to a Grand Jury. They will decide whether the police officer will be indicted. If so, then there will be a trial. If not, then that’s the end of it as far as our office is involved."
Garden State Equality and GRAANJ requested Fontoura and Laurino inform them whether the killing was related to a sting operation targeting gay men, and if so, they "cease and desist such operations in Branch Brook Park, and any others like it in Essex County."
The groups also requested the agencies meet with them as soon as possible, and establish an independent investigation into Gaymon’s death. And finally, they evoked the Open Public Records Act to request all documents related to previous lewdness arrests in Branch Brook Park, starting from 2005.