Thursday, June 29, 2006

Eddie Garzon: After five years, an arrest

Sometimes the mind boggles at the unexpected parallels that happen in life.

Yesterday I was writing about the sad discovery of the body of Adrian Exley, a British gay tourist who had been reported as missing in Massachusetts back in April. At the end of the post, I mentioned some of the reasons why such a case resonated with me.

Key among them was the unresolved murder of my friend Eddie Garzon in the streets of Queens back in August of 2001.

Imagine my surprise, then, when today I got calls from two reporters seeking a reaction to news that a man was in custody for the murder just days before the 5th anniversary since Eddie was attacked.

And where was the alleged attacker found? In Great Britain!

According to one of the reporters, he was being flown from London to JFK today to be arraigned by New York police upon his arrival [the AP has just released a news blurb that says that John McGhee has already arrived and has been taken into custody this evening].

When I hung up after the first reporter called, I didn't know how to feel. I just sat there stunned. And then the trembling started and suddenly I realized that what I actually felt was elation. All those years, the candlelight vigils, COLEGA's march of angels at the 2002 Queens LGBT pride parade - with his parents Leonor and Armando leading us in demanding justice for Eddie, the annual ritual by friends and family of placing flowers and candles at the spot where he was attacked.

It had been months since I last spoke to his parents but tonight I called to make sure that they knew what seemed to be happening. His father, Armando, answered the phone and told me that Vicky Cruz from the New York City Anti-Violence Project had reached out to him but that he was still unsure what was happening. He said that Eddie's mom, Leonor, was currently in Colombia. He said that he was feeling just like I was, not sure how to react to the news, and that his hands were trembling. I asked him to call me if he needed anything should reporters start calling.

Then I called Marlene (pictured here with Eddie) and she was also at a loss of words. Her immediate reaction was that she didn't know if this would simply end up opening some of the old wounds left on his friends and family in the wake of Eddie's death. Ultimately though she told me that, if anything, an arrest and possible conviction might bring a sense of closure.

I also called my boyfriend Raul, who organized the parade of angels for the Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association on that day in June of 2002 and he was thrilled.

Finally, I also called my friend Jimmy Van Bramer, who was running for City Council the same year that Eddie was attacked and told him the news. He was equally stunned that an arrest could happen five years down the line.

Obviously, a man is considered innocent until proven guilty in court, but it certainly feels as if efforts to keep Eddie's memory alive led to an arrest. Let's hope that justice is finally served.

Enormous - and I mean tremendous thanks - must go to members of the New York Police Department's investigative unit as well as the hate-crimes unit who kept the case open all these years. In particular Detective Kevin Czartoryski and retired officer Vanessa Ferro.

To the many community members and leaders who participated in rallies and marches.

To the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project under Christine Quinn's, Richard Haymes and - now - Clarence Patton's leadership: They never lost sight of the case and always provided a bridge between the family and developments in the case.

And finally to media: The editors at Newsday who ran this editorial back in 2001, to the Queens Chronicle, and to Gay City News whose editor and staff also never lost sight.

Thanks, thanks, thanks.



LaChang said...

Hola Andres - thank you for writing this article and keeping us informed about the final outcome. You certainly touched a nerve in terms of what can happen to any of us, to any of our brothers or sisters in our community.

Keep writing and keep informing us.

What a relief to finally have caught the killer.



Bernie said...

I could truly feel your elation in this account. Let's hope there is a positive outcome and ultimate closure.

taylorSiluwé ..... said...

I feel you on this one. And thank you for keeping the story in the public eye.