When Is A Hate Crime Not A Hate Crime?

A distinction for police is lost on the victim.

By Andrew SchneiderNovember 22, 2016 9:30 am| , , ,

From Houston Public Media

A warning to our listeners: This story includes an offensive reference to LGBTQ individuals.

Texas has been the scene of horrific acts of violence that state and federal lawclass as “hate crimes.” But while investigating for our year-long initiative DiverseCity, News 88.7 found an unsolved case in Houston that raises questions about when the hate crime label applies.

It’s morning in Houston’s Fourth Ward, and a crew is hard at work repairing a street. On one side is Carnegie Vanguard High School. On the other is Wiley Park. A pretty typical Houston neighborhood. But here one night, two years ago, a vicious attack left a man gravely wounded. That man was John Gaspari.

“It was actually Valentine’s Day 2015,” Gaspari says. “I went out with a very good friend of mine, and her and I went to dinner.”

The two followed dinner with drinks. Then Gaspari waited until an Uber came to take his friend home. “I lived roughly seven blocks from where we were,” he says, “and it was a really nice night, so I decided to walk home.”

Gaspari had reached the high school when a white car zipped past him. “As I was walking toward West Dallas Street, they circled back around, and they actually tried to run me over,” he says.

The car missed Gaspari, jumped the curb on the east side of the road, and hit the iron fence at the edge of the park. “Once the car hit the fence, three guys jumped out of the car, yelled, ‘Get the fag,’ and came running after me. Came at me, got my phone, tackled me, shot me once in the chest on the right side. And I pretty much fell to the ground, and they shot me again in my back and left me.”

Someone nearby heard the gunshots and called 911. Gaspari woke up two days later in Ben Taub Hospital, registered as John Doe. The attackers had taken his wallet as well as his phone. He’d already endured a seven-and-a-half hour surgery. Doctors had to remove parts of his small intestine, colon, and bowel.

“Altogether, I had roughly five procedures and surgeries,” he says, “the last one being toward the end of October of 2015.”

Gaspari cooperated with the Houston Police Department to try to find his would-be killers. But he says trying to get any updates on his case was like pulling teeth.

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