More than 1,500 New Yorkers gathered today in Manhattan to mourn the death of a 32 year-old gay man, who was shot down on Friday just blocks away from the historic Stonewall Inn in an apparent act of anti-gay bias.
Vigils Held Around the Country for Young Couple Kristene and Mollie After Shooting
Police say Texas teenagers Mary Kristene Chapa and Mollie Judith Olgin, who were in a relationship, were shot execution style with a large-caliber gun in a park on Friday night and were found approximately nine hours later. Vigils are being organized and held around the country for 19-year-old Texas A&M student Mollie, who was pronounced dead at the scene, and for Kristene, 18, who remains in critical condition following surgery to treat the gunshot wound to her head. The tragic story has been covered by major news outlets, including MSNBC, CNN, Huffington Post, and TIME.
A candlelight vigil will be held in Violet Andrews Park of Portland, Texas—the park in which the girls were found—this Friday, June 29 at 6:00 P.M. Details for the vigil as well as prayers and messages from people around the world can be found on the Facebook page for the Texas vigil.
"Our hearts go out to Mollie and Kristene's friends, family and community, who are still in shock from this attack," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "We wish Kristene the very best as she recovers from this senseless act, and are heartened to see their community join together to stand up in support of them and other young couples like them."
LGBT Advocate Cleve Jones has organized a 7:00 P.M. Wednesday vigil in San Francisco's Harvey Milk Plaza, and has been using his Facebook own page to update others on news related to Kristene and Mollie. He is also calling on members of other geographic communities to host their own vigils.
Answering this call from Jones, another vigil will be held on Friday at 6:00 P.M. in DuPont Circle in Washington D.C.
Violet Andrews Park is already home to rainbow ribbons, flowers, and homemade messages and shows of love from members of the community mourning the attacks against the young women.
"We are a very close-knit community and when news of the shooting spread through our town, everyone wanted to help," Mary Lankford, one of Kristene's teachers, told CNN.
A friend of Kristene and Mollie told MSNBC, "We focused on their personalities and how they got along with everybody else … their kindheartedness and their ability to just make other people smile and make each other smile," he said. "We didn't care … what they were, it's who they were."
The crimes are not yet formally being considered acts of discrimination, but Portland Police Chief Randy Wright notes that the case, for which no suspects have been identified, has "some of the earmarks of a targeted attack." The FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are investigating the case as well.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said in a statement: "This brutal act against Mollie and Kristene has left many shaken throughout the local community and across the country. It is heart-wrenching that these two young women, with their whole lives ahead of them, became the targets of such terrifying and deadly violence. Our deepest sympathies go out to their loved ones, and we keep Kristene in our thoughts and prayers during her recovery. We urge police to investigate this case fully, including the possibility that these shootings were motivated by bias. Despite the many gains that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have made, the threat of violence remains excruciatingly real. We all must continue pressing toward the day when LGBT people can live freely and safely."
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued a statement after reaching out to the federal and local law enforcement officials as well as the DOJ. "Regardless of the motivation behind this tragedy, we must send a strong message that violence against anyone is never acceptable," said HRC President Chad Griffin in the statement, adding that they "hope to see a thorough investigation. These women, and all victims of violent crimes, deserve nothing less."
We encourage you to attend one of the vigils for Mollie and Kristene that are taking place this week across the nation. Please see the GetEqual Texas list of vigils to find one near you.
Update: Kristene's family has set up a donation page to help cover her hospital care -- please consider making a contribution to this fund.