Felix Bermea, Roy Messerschmidt, and their four adopted children have been harassed, burglarized, followed, and threatened over the past several months. Until recently, that harassment had not prompted what the family considers an adequate response from police, but that may have changed following a wave of local media coverage.
Felix, Roy, and their kids have been subjected to banging on their windows, bushes burning in their yard, vandalism of the family car, genitals drawn in chalk near their driveway, and a home break-in that has left profanities carved into the kid’s walls and furniture.
Less than three weeks ago, an SUV pulled up to the kids as they were riding their bikes. A man jumped out and chased them, carrying what one of them said looked like a gun, while another person stayed in the SUV, driving slowly behind, according to the Republic and Examiner.
“What’s happening to my family is a hate crime,” Felix told his NBC affiliate. “Since this invasion of our house, I’m fearful for my children’s well-being.
Up until now, the Gilbert Police have not expressed such public sympathy. They have, instead, been defensive and short on information, implying that the police force is being defamed by Felix, Roy, and the media.
According to the Republic, Dorn has conceded, though, that the officers have moved slowly and lacked compassion when interacting with the family.
Whatever the extent of the investigation, there have not been any leads, suspects, or arrests, and the crimes, as well as fear within the men’s family, continue to escalate. The couple say that they do not want to uproot and leave, though, because they hope to maintain some sense of stability for their children, ages 9-14, who were adopted by Felix and Roy after being in the foster care system.
According to a post on Democratic Underground, local journalists and news affiliates picked up the story after a family friend reached out to tell the family’s story. Felix and Roy were recently featured on their local CBS affiliate KPHO and NBC affiliate, and most recently in The Arizona Republic. Examiner.com also wrote with outrage about the inaction of the Gilbert police.
As Felix told KPHO, “My kids are being terrorized. [They] have no safe place and this is why we are wanting the Gilbert Police to know that this is a very serious situation that’s going on.”
The media attention appears to have prompted the Mayor to step in. According to Felix, Mayor John Lewis has promised that responses from and relations with the police will improve, that the campaign of intimidation and harassment will be taken seriously, and that the community will band together to stand up for this family. It’s now up to police to make good on the Mayor’s promise.
Meanwhile, Family Equality Council is trying to raise funds to bring the family up to Provincetown, Massachusetts at the end of the month for its Family Week – during which the family will have the opportunity to interact with many other LGBT families, something they don’t get to do often in Gilbert. To help out, you can visit http://www.indiegogo.com/familyweek.
The media has been instrumental in bringing attention to the harassment and intimidation facing Feliz, Roy and their children, and GLAAD calls on the media to continue to keep the pressure on police and the community to stand up for this family.