Police have arrested a 24-year-old Queens man in connection with the January 17 assault on Randy Gener, a gay arts journalist badly beaten a block from his Midtown apartment at 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue.
Leighton Jennings, 24, who lives at 114-16 166 Street in Jamaica, Queens, was arrested on January 29 and charged with second-degree assault in an early morning attack 12 days earlier that left Gener with severe head trauma that required surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.
According to Gener’s husband, Stephen Nisbet, the victim, 46, was returning home shortly after 2 a.m. from the opening night party for the Broadway play “Machinal,” a gathering that ran late due to technical stage problems that delayed the evening’s performance.
Second-degree assault charge as gay journalist continues difficulty recovery
At a press conference at the Consulate General of the Philippines on Fifth Avenue in Midtown on January 27, where the Filipino-American Press Club and other groups held a prayer vigil for Gener, who is Filipino-American, Nisbet and Gener’s sister, Jessica Blair-Driessler, indicated that Gener is improving, but they declined to detail his current condition or prospects for a full recovery. He remains in intensive care at St. Luke’s Hospital and additional surgeries may be necessary.
Nisbet and Blair-Driessler noted that robbery was apparently not the motive in the attack but also emphasized that it was not clear it was bias-related either.
When police found Gener after receiving a 911 call, “He had all of his possessions, everything,” Nisbet said.
Blair-Driessler, however, added, about the possibility that her brother’s assault was a hate crime, “We are not 100 percent sure. It is a possibility, but because I don’t know myself, it wouldn’t be a fair representation to label it so. So I think at this stage we are keeping our minds open to more than labeling the situation, but rather to finding out the truth of what took place.”
At a separate vigil near the site of the attack the evening before, Blair-Driessler said a member of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau LGBT liaison team was on hand and had spoken to her.
In response to Gay City News' question as to whether the crime continues to be viewed as a potential bias incident, the police department responded via email, “The suspect arrested was charged with felony assault, not as a hate crime.” In that same email, the department offered no comment when asked to confirm reporting by the New York Times that the assault resulted from a street altercation that began when Gener accidentally bumped into a woman companion of Jennings.
Police, on January 27, released a sketch of a man described as a Hispanic male in his 20s, approximately six feet tall and weighing 160 pounds, with short black hair and wearing black jeans and a black jacket. Police also said the suspect fled the scene in a gray, four-door Nissan that had Mississippi license plate number KAT397.
In the NYPD release announcing Jennings’ arrest, he was described a black man.
The NYPD did not respond to a Gay City News question posed earlier in the week about how the information on the suspect was developed. The New York Times, in reporting that the department would not comment on, wrote that the assault was caught on surveillance video and also witnessed in person.
In a statement posted on Facebook after Jennings' arrest, Nisbet and Blair-Driessler wrote, “The family of Randy Gener would like to thank all of the people who have helped move along the investigation. We are thankful to the New York Police Department, particularly the Hate Crimes Task Force, for conducting a thorough and swift investigation. We are eternally grateful to the community (particularly the Filipino American and arts communities) for raising awareness about this incident, for showing solidarity and generosity through organizing vigils and events, and for creating a fund to support ongoing medical expenses. Finally, we are thankful for all who have benevolently offered their services, particularly the New York City Anti-Violence Project. We are pleased and relieved that a suspect has finally been apprehended and trust that the NYPD and District Attorney will make all efforts to bring justice for Randy. At this time, we are focusing on Randy’s healing and moving forward together as a family.”
Gener’s family will hold a fundraiser to help defray his medical costs on February 23 at the Filipino restaurant the Purple Yam Filipino (purpleyamnyc.com) on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn, with more details to follow. They also established a web page to raise funds at youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/for-randy-gener/130589.