After two murders, Councilman urges gay people to be careful dating

Daniel Dromm
Councilman Daniel Dromm, right, speaks at the scene of one of the murders. (Courtesy of Daniel Dromm)

After three recent murders, some in the gay community are questioning online dating.

Politicians urged caution while meeting potential dates after two gay men were killed one week apart in Queens.

Councilman Daniel Dromm decried the murders, which were in his Queens district, Tuesday at one of the crime locations.

“The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities are deeply concerned about these two recent murders,” he said in Elmhurst. “It is an eerie coincidence that both of these murders took place within a week of each other and involved gay men.”

The first murder victim he referenced was David Rangel, a Queens teacher found choked to death in his apartment Feb. 3.

One week later, Sunday at the Crown Motor Inn, where Dromm spoke, another gay man was strangled. Joseph Benzinger was found dead by the motel staff, according to Dromm’s office.

Dromm pointed out that both cases involved middle-aged gay men.

He also said a similar attack occurred Jan. 28, when Hamilton Heights resident Charles Romo was found dead in his apartment.

An NYPD spokeswoman said the department’s Hate Crime Task Force is monitoring the cases, which she said do not appear to be related.

Dromm urged people in the LGBT community to be careful when they are dating someone for the first time. The Councilman expressed concerns after Ringel’s murder that he may have been meeting people online.

“Go to your favorite café and make sure the waiter sees who you are with,” he said. “If you meet someone in a bar, let the bartender know who the person is.”

Tonight, the New York City Anti-Violence Project is hosting an event in Jackson Heights to dole out dating tips, Staying Safe with Online Pick-Ups.

“People are definitely concerned,” Ejeris Dixon at the Project said.

Many have called with fears or to recount their own violent encounters while dating online, she said.

Stubborn stigmas around both being gay and dating online contribute to an underground quality of the meet ups, she said.

“We really feel that it’s a critical moment for us to get the information out there,” she said.

The group also noted a 13 percent increase in reports of hate violence against gay and HIV-affected New Yorkers between 2010 and 2011, their most recent data available.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter: @reporteralison

Follow Metro New York on Twitter: @MetroNewYork



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