Gay Pride | News | San Diego

Performer Fatally Shot in San Diego Gay Boat Cruise Tragedy


A gay party cruise on the Hornblower yacht 'Inspiration' being run by promoter Bill Hardt to coincide with the city's Gay Pride festival on Saturday night turned tragic, as one of the go-go boys hired to dance on the cruise somehow fell overboard, and after a series of events was ultimately shot and killed by police attempting to rescue him. The cruise, which featured DJs Manny Lehman and Chris Cox, ran from 10pm to 2am in San Diego's harbor. When the man, identified as Steven Hirschfield, from West Hollywood, first went overboard, the ship immediately called police who responded while crew members from the ship attempted a rescue. Crew members reported that Hirschfield resisted their attempts to rescue him.

SdboatAccording to the San Diego Union Tribune, "Hornblower crew members threw flotation devices to Hirschfield and stayed near him until Harbor Police arrived, Unger said. A police boat found Hirschfield in the water about 500 feet south of the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station on Harbor Drive across from Lindbergh Field. The water is about 40 feet deep in that part of the bay, authorities said. When Hirschfield boarded the Harbor Police boat, he scuffled with the two officers on board, Harbor Police said. Hirschfield knocked one officer to the deck, took the officer's Taser gun and began beating him in the face with it, Harbor Police said. Hirschfield then tried to get the injured officer's firearm. As he struggled to get control of the gun, the second officer shot Hirschfield once, Harbor Police said."

Hirschfield was pronounced dead at the dock.

Emails from Towleroad readers report that it took more than two hours for all to fully disembark from the boat as officers interrogated each and every passenger about the incident.

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  1. What IS tragic is that guys are using methanphetamine at all. Not getting help is tragic and getting to such a state as to create this kind of drama involving the community at a time which is supposed to be about expressing pride is also tragic. It would be great if it turns out that this guy was using, that his death would be a wake-up call for others on the cruise who were using that maybe this is not the route to go down and to seek help, but I'm doubtful that this will be the case.

    Posted by: tooboot | Jul 21, 2008 1:26:24 PM

  2. That story gave me gay pride.

    Posted by: paul | Jul 21, 2008 1:28:16 PM

  3. A few points I'd like to make. I knew Steve. Not well, but he dated a friend of mine for about 9 months last year and I had spent a fair amount of time with him when they were together. He was not a "gay trash whacko." He was neither GAY, nor TRASH, nor WHACKO. He had some substance abuse issues, yes. Although I don't claim to know all the facts, I do not believe he was a "meth head." Regardless, he was a human being, and a kind one. He did not deserve what happened to him. It was senseless and preventable. I have no idea what he was on or what transpired that day that would have made him do something that would be so clearly endangering to himself, but unfortunately I understand why the situation unfolded as it did. Still, the whole thing never should have happened. Be as catty as you want, but this was a man with parents, a sister, and friends who loved him and cared about him.

    Carry on.

    Posted by: Jefferson | Jul 21, 2008 1:34:53 PM

  4. What a bunch of nasty bitter queens you all are. Jesus H Christ, have some compassion. You have no idea who he was or what happened so you should just shut up about it. At least until the story evolves a bit.

    No wonder we have so much more work to do.

    Posted by: realitythink | Jul 21, 2008 1:47:37 PM

  5. You guys, I used to do meth, alot. I never got violent But many times I was convinced someone was standing outside staring in my window (sun came up and it turned out to be a mailbox), been in the middle of an orgy where I didn't know a single persons name wondering what day it was, not showing up for work, watching my teeth rot, I could go on and on. It does sound like this guy was high as fuck. However, I can say this to all of you who basically think he was worthless.

    There but for the grace of God........

    Posted by: thevegasstyleguy | Jul 21, 2008 2:11:59 PM

  6. Yes, we need to get all of the facts. But, lord, if it came down to a raging, thrashing guy or a cop who had to take a bullet, I'm glad the story ended the way it did.

    Can you imagine the fallout if that tweaker had secured AND USED the gun?? Kiss gay marriage in California goodbye.

    Posted by: jeff | Jul 21, 2008 2:28:17 PM

  7. thank god for the last few comments - and i second mark and jefferson - stop being stupid bitchy queens. a guy is dead, guys. one of us, somebody's boy and somebody's love of their life. i never read comments here becuse they're often stupid and catty - but i got on to this one because I though it would bring us together like the comments when CA legalized gay marriage: of course not - you decided he was on meth and a "stupid fag" and deserved to die. nobody deserved to die, guys, and he may have had a psychotic attack or something else not related to drugs. or he could have been using, which so many of 'our people' have - do we all deserve to die? who needs jesse helms when we have each other.

    Posted by: echovic | Jul 21, 2008 2:31:34 PM

  8. Everyone is assuming

    1- the guy was high on something
    2- the police are telling the truth

    The reality could have been the police pulled him aboard and started mocking him = gay go go dancer in skimpy outfit + straight police

    He got upset and a fight occured between him and the officer. He got shot. The police as all police generaly do to protect each other = circled the wagons and concocted a story.

    In other words NOBODY knows anything till everything is investigated.

    Stop judging te go-go dancer and stop assuming the police are always right. They are not saints, just humans doing a job (hard job)with all of the issues, hang ups, and screw ups that all humans have and do

    Posted by: Jimmyboyo | Jul 21, 2008 2:35:30 PM

  9. According to a friend on the boat:

    They had noticed Hirshfield earlier in the trip observing that he was both obviously heterosexual and obviously heavily under the influence of some type of drug.

    He also reported that all the passengers disembarked in small groups and everyone was questioned as to what they knew about the situation.

    Posted by: Timothy | Jul 21, 2008 2:39:04 PM

  10. Everything here is speculation. Everything.

    But DanB and the rest who feel it is ok to shoot somebody, anybody anywhere... wow.

    My former lover was murdered by San Diego police in the mid '90's.

    I'm sure there is another way to stop someone. Shoot in the leg perhaps. . .

    William was killed from 25 feet away. Five shots in the head and chest.

    So sad to see nothing has changed.

    Posted by: Br!on | Jul 21, 2008 4:32:33 PM

  11. BR!ON

    sorry to hear.

    Posted by: Jimmyboyo | Jul 21, 2008 4:49:21 PM

  12. I actually feel sorry for everyone involved. Is that ok?

    It sounds like a terrifying, bizarre, and unpredictable situation that involved a huge amount of risk to everyone involved.

    Posted by: Yeek | Jul 21, 2008 5:06:15 PM

  13. Thanks JB.

    My point is we don't know what happened and maybe it was necessary, but to jump to any conclusions based on no knowledge is a mistake.

    I feel as well that any end of life must come with that thought process.

    Posted by: Br!on | Jul 21, 2008 6:36:02 PM

  14. sigh.

    Posted by: D. | Jul 21, 2008 7:01:21 PM

  15. i just can't understand why he would attack the people who were trying to rescue him. where is the logic? drugs or not, it doesn't matter. personally, i don't like to blame drugs. i suppose he could have been still freaking out from having fallen overboard but i don't know. there are just lots of ??????? in my mind. my drug days are over, but i can say i've never had a violent freakout caused by any drug i've ever done.

    i feel bad for all those involved, however i can't say i find anyone at fault in this particular case, given the limited details we've received.

    Posted by: D. | Jul 21, 2008 7:08:29 PM

  16. Facts: I was on the boat and at about 11:30pm, Bill Hardt (promoter) made an announcement to everyone that someone decided to "go for a swim" and that the San Diego Police had ordered the yacht be returned to dock. Hardt also mentioned that the music on the upper deck was going to be shut off but that the party would continue on the second (enclosed/indoors) level. At this time, there were no additional facts or details provided.

    However, once the yacht returned to dock, the music did continue on the upper deck - though at a lower volume - and some people continued dancing upstairs. Though the yacht returned to dock, I'm pretty sure that no one was let off early.

    At 2am (the posted closing time for the party), Bill Hardt made another announcement that everyone on the yacht was going to go through a 15-second interview by San Diego police on their way out and that it would take about an hour to get everyone safely off the yacht. (You can only imagine everyone's reaction when that announcement was made.) Of course, at this time there was no mention of Steven Hirshfield's death. I think it's safe to assume that a lot of people thought Hirshfield was rescued by police and that the "15-second interview" was standard procedure to determine if there were any witnesses who saw Hirshfield jump or fall off the yacht. (And I use the word "assume" here because that was the consensus among my group of friends.)

    It wasn't until Sunday morning that most of us learned of Hirshfield's tragic death by reading it in the paper or online, watching a news report, or hearing about it from a friend.

    I was saddened by the evening's tragic events during what is supposed to be a celebration of pride and progress in the GLBT community.

    Posted by: P | Jul 21, 2008 8:02:54 PM

  17. WOW. I can't even imagine all the good drugs that got flushed the minute they announced that everyone was gonna get interviewed by the cops. I'd be FREAKING so bad I'd probably jump ship too.
    This is a "sad" story, but the cops did what they had to do. I really have a hard time thinking that the SDPD would kill a dude, just for the hell of it. If he was beating the cops, and reaching for a gun, then we're lucky no one else was seriously hurt or killed.

    Posted by: Jake | Jul 21, 2008 9:22:35 PM

  18. Um couldn't it be that the cops called him a faggot and in his hetero-defensiveness, he took a swing at them and then got shot?

    Posted by: isntitpossible | Jul 21, 2008 9:46:53 PM


    Posted by: Bob Barker | Jul 21, 2008 11:56:58 PM

  20. you know, I'm of the personal belief that the concept of life should come with a certain amount of respect. No one knows the exact circumstances of the guys death, he could've been in shock, he could've been high, he could've been hallucinating from the shock to his body, either way, the guy was a person. The way some of you talk you all sound like you made snap judgment without any insight as to who this guy is. He was someone's son, he could've been someone's significant other. Unless you know this person's journey through life you have no right to tear him and his memory to shreds like that. Have some respect, seriously.

    Now, personally I want to know why the rescuers felt the need to carry firearms, couldn't they have just as easily carried tranquilizer guns?

    Posted by: Pekemo | Jul 22, 2008 12:20:09 AM

  21. i booked steve for gogo dancing and legit gigs (he did extra work on nip/tuck) for past 6 years in LA. steve was a nice guy who had some substance abuse issues. he was straight, never gay for pay and chasing the dream of just being a legit performer.
    I'm going to miss him. When he was sober, he was one of my best employees.

    Posted by: willam | Jul 22, 2008 3:23:16 AM

  22. I am just curious --

    All of those who dismiss this man as somehow worthless because of some assumed state of being and assumed state of mind --

    What are *you* worth? What is *your* contribution to the greater good?

    Like I said, just curious.

    Posted by: Marty | Jul 22, 2008 2:24:58 PM

  23. Most of these posts make me sick to read. Most of commentators are pretty much ASSUMING facts that, as they say, are not in evidence yet. I like the assumption that the police officers were straight. How do you know that? I've met several gay officers in San Diego, couldn't they have been the ones who responded to the initial call for help? And no one here, absolutely no one here, can relate to what happened unless you have been through a situation like this. As a retired police officer, I know what it's like to be in a fight for your life with someone intent on taking your firearm away! Until you walk a mile in these shoes - STF up!

    And whether this poor deceased man was gay, straight, high, sober, suffering from psychological problems or whatever - he was still a human being with friends and family who are in mourning over his loss. Show some respect, show some compassion and kindly keep your conjecture, rumors and speculation to yourself.

    PS: Tranquilizer guns are for animal control officers PEKEMO, & Police officers don't "feel the need to carry firearms", rather they are required to carry firearms due to the dangers associated with their position.

    Posted by: A.Jay | Jul 22, 2008 7:49:37 PM

  24. First off, I have nothing but compassion, irregardless of the circumstances, for someone who takes their life. And really, that is what this poor guy did. His actions were equivalent to suicide, or "suicide by cop". I hope his family and friends can deal with this, as well as the officer who had to shoot him, which is never an easy decision for a cop. Those going on and on about the drugs or kill happy cops are using the same old tired stories to get their point across.

    I have a tired old story of my own, and it has little to do with Steve, but more to do with a situation I have always despised.
    Why are promoters booking STRAIGHT guys to dance at GAY parties, and at PRIDE no less??? Surely we have enough of our own eye candy, and young, up and coming kids that could use the break AND the money, then to be paying a 37 year old straight man to do the job? Once again, nothing against Steven, but I definitely have an issue with what seems like a discrepancy in what we pay for and what we get. I want GAY dancers at GAY events. Period. I want them to be comfortable with their job and I want to know that we are supporting our own community. Some times I wonder whats happening to SD Pride, the events, and our whole scene in general.

    Posted by: Bette Diddler | Jul 22, 2008 11:35:25 PM

  25. I think that the stripper/hooker in question jumped off the boat to get away from all the squealing, mincing, and prancing. He was also very close to having estrogen overdose poisoning just by being on the boat with those 900 wacked out fruits

    Posted by: Toldyaso | Jul 23, 2008 8:50:19 AM

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