GLAAD Works With Burke Burnett, Victim of Brutal Attack in Texas

Earlier this week, the Dallas Voice broke the news of a brutal attack that took place in Reno, Texas, during the early morning hours of Sunday, October 30.

The victim was Burke Burnett, a 26-year-old openly gay man and lifelong resident of neigboring Paris, Texas - a small town located about 100 miles northeast of Dallas.

While attending a Halloween party, Burke claims that he was attacked by three men.  Burke says the men stabbed him with a broken beer bottle, at least twice, before throwing him onto a fire.  Burke says that while all of this was happening, his attackers were shouting numerous anti-gay slurs at him.

Burke told the Dallas Voice that it took 30 stitches to close stab wounds to his back and forearm, as well as a cut above his left eye.  Horrific photos of Burke also reveal that he sustained second-degree burns and severe bruises.

A friend of Burke's contacted the Dallas Voice.  Immediately upon learning of this, GLAAD reached out to Dallas Voice Senior Political Writer John Wright.  Thanks to John, we were able to quickly connect with Burke, who understandably was still feeling overwhelmed in the aftermath of Sunday morning's events.

In consulation with Burke's legal counsel, Equality Texas and the Anti-Defamation League's North Texas Regional Office, GLAAD has provided support primarily by helping Burke to share his story with the media.

Yesterday Burke conducted his first television interview with Charles Bassett of KDAF-33, the local CW affiliate in Dallas, Texas.  On Monday, November 7, Burke will sit down for his first national television interview with MSNBC's Thomas Roberts (this interview was initially slated to air today, but was preempted due to a news conference with President Obama).

 "I was hurt really badly that night, emotionally and physically, but I didn't lose my life, and that's the most important thing," said Burke in his interview with KDAF.

When asked how he was doing, four days later, Burke said, "I'm taking it one day at a time.  I'm trying to do the next right thing."

Very movingly, Burke also told Charles that he came out at the age of 15, inspired by the story of Matthew Shepherd. 

Holding back tears, Burke said, "It really scared me as a little boy to think that that's what happens to gay people."

As of this blog post's writing, three suspects are in police custody, all of whom have been charged with aggravated assault.

"At the end of the day, the jury will make a finding that it qualifies as a hate crime," said Don Haslam, Burke's legal counsel.

Burke's focus is now on getting well.  As for the eventual outcome of all this he says, "I haven't prayed enough about that yet to know exactly what I want done to these people, but it's not my job to decide what justice for these guys is."

GLAAD will continue to provide support to Burke, as well as monitor the media coverage of this developing story.

Unfortunately this isn't the only brutal attack making headlines out of Texas this week.  Yesterday GLAAD learned that Kristen Cooper, a student at the University of Texas San Antonio, claims she was assulated by two men after they learned she is a lesbian.  Like Burke, Kristen told KENS-5, the local CBS affiliate in San Antonio, Texas, that she was taunted with anti-gay slurs at the same time she was being attacked.

GLAAD is in the process of trying to connect with and offer our support to Kristen.

We will continue to keep you posted as new details emerge.  In the meantime, if you encounter problematic news coverage of either Burke or Kristen's story, please report it here.