Montana Gay Bashing Brings Out Gay Officer

MissoulagaybashingHere’s an item I missed which was recently brought to my attention by my dad (thanks, Dad). Wally Catton and Marcus Chebul experienced the following ugly assault here in Missoula in October, according to the Missoula Independent:

Catton and Chebul, who are both 21 and happen to be heterosexual, say they were walking north along Higgins Avenue just south of the bridge when men in a red SUV drove by yelling that Chebul’s hat and glasses looked gay and that they were “fags.” Chebul says it’s not the first time the friends have heard similar things on the strip on weekend nights, and they blew it off as “drunk guys doing drunk-guy things.” But then the car pulled over and two men made a beeline for them. One man pulled off Chebul’s glasses and said, “Now you look less like a fag,” he recalls, and “Why don’t you go suck some dicks instead” when Chebul asked for them back. Then they began punching Catton and Chebul, and Catton ran to the Holiday gas station across the street to call the police. When he came back, a dark-colored sedan had arrived and more men were beating Chebul. When they saw Catton trying to take down their license plates, they punched him down into a bush, he says, and then took off in their cars. Police arrived a few minutes later, they say, and their parents later took them to the hospital. Catton, whose jaw was fractured twice, now has a metal plate in his jaw and his mouth is wired shut for six weeks. Chebul received a concussion and three breaks in his cheekbone. Officer Oak said Oct. 24 that the department had strong leads on suspects and expected to make an arrest within the week.

Some good has come of the incident, however. Scott Oak, an openly gay motorcycle cop on the Missoula Police Force, has stepped up to be a liaison between the police force and the LGBT community in Missoula. He also writes occasional pieces for the Missoula Gayzette, a newsletter for the Western Montana gay community. A recent article, Top Cops, explains his new involvement.

Police chief Rusty Wickman spoke at a recent meeting at the Western Montana Gay & Lesbian Community Center: “We’ve needed to establish a better relationship with the GLBTI community for a long time. And I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of that in the past. I apologize this wasn’t done three years ago. The line between harassment and assault can be very thin. There are barriers between the gay community and the police department, and I need to know what those barriers are. We are your police department, too.”

Top Cops [montana gayzette]
City police reach out to gay community through liaison officer [missoulian]
Fighting Back [missoula independent]

Posted November 9, 2005 at 6:00pm ETC by Andy Towle
in Current Affairs