Words exchanged between a man and a group of seven young women, described in press accounts as lesbians, in the West Village last Friday morning ended with the man suffering a beating and a stab wound in the stomach, police said.
The women, ranging in age from 18 to 31 and residents of Newark and East Orange, New Jersey, got into the dispute with 28-year-old Dwayne Buckle of Queens, in front of the IFC Center at West Third Street and Sixth Avenue, where the man, who described himself as an independent filmmaker, was selling bootleg DVDs, according to a report in the New York Post.
Buckle was treated in St. Vincent’s Hospital, where he underwent surgery and was breathing with the aid of an oxygen tube for some time. He is now in stable condition.
Police said they caught the seven suspects at West Fourth Street and recovered the weapon that allegedly wounded Buckle—a serrated knife—in the possession of 19-year-old Patreese Johnson. Others apprehended were Venice Brown, 18, Khamysha Coates, 31, Lania Daniels, 21, Terrain Dandridge, 19, Renata Hill, 24, and Chenese Loyal, 19. Daindridge lives in East Orange; the other women in Newark.
A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office said the seven women have each been charged with attempted murder in the second degree, gang assault in the first degree, assault in the first degree, and assault in the second degree. The women were not immediately able to post the $50,000 cash bail.
Accounts of the incident, however, vary widely and at least one gay rights group, Garden State Equality, has expressed “solidarity” with the seven suspects, saying in a written release Tuesday that it is shocked that it was the women—and not the man who it said initiated an “attack” on seven New Jersey residents—who were charged.
In comments to the press while in St. Vincent’s, Buckle alleged that he made a friendly overture to Johnson as the group passed him, but was ignored by her. Another woman, whom he described as Johnson’s girlfriend and “fat,” began harassing him, he said, and soon surrounded him. At that point, according to Buckle, one of the women spit on him and he spit back, after which the attack began. Newspaper reports have alternately said the women beat him with belts or with their fists. The New York Times reported that others, both men and women, joined in the attack on Buckle. When he began bleeding from his stab wound, the seven women allegedly ran away.
Buckle has described the incident as a “hate attack against a straight man” by women who “hated men,” according to the New York Daily News.
The Daily News, however, reported that one of the women, while being led out of the 6th Precinct headquarters in the West Village, alleged that it was Buckle who spit first, threw a cigarette at the women, and yelled homophobic slurs. The woman said the incident had been an anti-lesbian “hate crime.” The News reported that several witnesses confirmed that it was Buckle who spit at the women first.
An employee of a nearby news stand called police, but the man was not available this week. Another employee of the news stand noted that the IFC has two security cameras outside that likely captured the incident.
In making its statement in support of the defendants, Garden State Equality made reference to the May 2003 murder of Sakia Gunn, a 15-year-old lesbian stabbed in the neck early on a Sunday morning as she and a group of friends were returning to their homes in Newark after a night of hanging out in the West Village. The young lesbians were approached in downtown Newark by two men in a car who made advances at them. When the women brushed them off, explaining they were lesbians, the men attacked them and the encounter led to Gunn’s mortal stabbing. Richard McCullough, who was then 29, was sentenced last year to 20 years in prison for the crime.
Gunn’s funeral drew a crowd of hundreds of young lesbians from Newark and surrounding towns that turned into an emotional march through that city. If she were still alive, Gunn would now be 18, roughly the same age as some of the women arrested, who might well have been classmates of hers.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian who represents the district where the crime occurred, in a written statement perhaps influenced by some of the murkiness of the facts in last week’s case, said, “Physical violence is clearly not the answer to inappropriate or hurtful remarks or to unwanted sexual attention. I condemn this physical attack and I look forward to the Police Department’s full investigation of the incident.”
—Lincoln Anderson and Paul Schindler