I’ve been to this Cafe; I was there when I helped Laurie and Twyla move to Tucson.
Arizona Daily Star, February 8, 2000
By Stephanie Innes, The Arizona Daily Star
In an attack that police call a hate crime, a man stabbed a 20-year-old University of Arizona student in the back Sunday as he stood outside a cafe that caters to gay and lesbian customers. Witnesses said the attacker yelled slurs about homosexuals before and after stabbing the victim. About two hours later and a block away, Tucson police arrested 37-year-old Gary Grayson.
The stabbing occurred after 9 p.m. at the Rainbow Planet Cafe, 606 N. Fourth Ave. The victim, an active member of the UA’s Pride Alliance, was standing on the sidewalk. Pride Alliance is made up of the student government’s representatives on gay issues.
“It’s not OK for anyone to be at a cafe and to be stabbed,” said Fritz Petrasovits, a Rainbow Cafe employee. The victim, Petrasovits said,”was randomly picked. He didn’t say anything at all.” Witnesses told police that Grayson said, “Let this be a warning to the gay community” as he fled the scene. The Arizona Daily Star is withholding the name of the victim, who was at home recovering yesterday. The knife hit one of the victim’s ribs, said a man who identified himself as the victim’s roommate, J. Davis.
Police arrested Grayson about 11 p.m. on Fourth Avenue near Seventh Street. He was charged with aggravated assault and remained in the Pima County Jail last night in lieu of a $10,000 bond.
If convicted, Grayson could receive a tougher penalty under provisions of Arizona’s hate crimes statute. The law, passed by the Legislature in 1997, allows judges to impose harsher sentences if a crime victim was targeted because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
Brandon Holmes, a 26-year-old state worker who witnessed the attack, said the attacker stabbed the victim in the back, then shoved the knife into a flower pot on the street. “He was bleeding so badly,” Holmes said. “And it was so unprovoked. I mean, we get yells from people but that’s usually about it.”
Jim Luiz, 42, who also witnessed the stabbing, said Grayson made statements to other customers at the cafe about Jesus hating homosexuals. “One thing about being a gay man is that you know there’s violence,” Luiz said. “I think the intolerance is becoming more dramatic, but very few gay men would come forward and talk about it.”
The crime angered members of UA’s Pride Alliance, who yesterday kicked off their annual Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Awareness Week. “Up until Matthew Shepard, hate crimes didn’t get the press they deserved and it’s really scary, especially in a liberal town like Tucson,” said Jonna Lopez, a 24-year-old UA junior and coordinator of the university’s Pride Alliance. Shepard, a 21-year-old gay University of Wyoming student, died Oct. 12, 1998, five days after he was kidnapped, robbed, and beaten. Investigators said robbery was the main motive, but that Shepard’s killers singled him out because he was gay.
In Tucson, the 1976 death of 21-year-old Richard J. Heakin helped change the community’s views about sexual orientation. Heakin was beaten to death outside the Stonewall Tavern, a gay nightclub on North First Avenue. Four teens were charged with first-degree murder, but the charges were reduced and the teens were sentenced to probation.
Within a year of Heakin’s death, Tucson became one of the first cities to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation.