Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Days of mourning – Part 1: The Attack

I did not find out about the attack – which happened around 3:50 a.m. on Wednesday, August 15th, 2001 - until 5 days later when I read a Sunday Newsday article (“Gay Activists Rally Against Hate Crime,” August 19th, 2001). Even then, it also took me a couple more days to track down some old friends and confirm that the “Edgardo Garzon” in the article was, in fact, Eddie Garzon, the beautiful, vibrant, talented young gay man who had been a member of an organization I founded in Jackson Heights a few years earlier, the Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association (COLEGA).

According to newspaper and police reports, and the recollection of R., a friend who had walked home with Eddie the night of the attack, he had been partying with some friends at a couple of local bars including Friend's Tavern and had ended up at Cositas Ricas, a Colombian bakery on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 80th Street. After dancing and drinking the night away, they were ready to call it a night and, as usual, in the end it was Eddie and R. turning right on 77th Street off Roosevelt Avenue in the general direction of their apartments.

The Newsday article initially said that he had been attacked outside Friend’s Tavern but a week later other news reports corrected this: Just as Eddie and R. had made the turn on 77th, Eddie stopped to urinate in the dark next to a tree. R., who had walked a few steps ahead, realized that Eddie had stopped and waited for Eddie to catch up. Instead, a red car seemed to stop next to Eddie as he was zipping up and R. observed Eddie and the driver exchange a couple of words. When Eddie finally caught up with R., he said it was not anyone he knew, just a guy apparently trying to pick him up (SIDE-NOTE: 77th Street and 73rd Street actually bracket a small 4-block 37th Road. Back in the 1990’s, when the Indian movie-house The Eagle actually used to be a porn theatre called The Earle - and a seedy gay bar called The Magic Touch was right next to it - 37th Road was actually so well-known as a gay pick-up spot that it received the name “Vaseline Alley” which still survives today though both the porn theatre and so-called “Tragic” Touch bars have gone – as well as most of the pick-up action as well).

Here is when things get blurry: There is a camera inside a bank on the corner of 37th Avenue which captured the moment when Eddie and R. say good bye and start heading their separate ways – R. takes a right on 37th Ave. while Eddie begins to cross that same Avenue (37th Ave. is actually one block down from 37th Road – yes, Queens street addresses can get a bit complicated). The camera shows that Eddie seemed to stop and look at some people inside car parked near the same corner. He seems to just stand there for a few seconds, just looking at the car and its occupants, and then he just finishes crossing the street.

R. says that he was half a block away when he heard the screech of rubber wheels speeding up on the pavement. Turning around he notices the car make a hard left and rush in the direction Eddie had gone. Fearing something is awfully wrong, he runs back and turns a right on 77th Street. It’s dark and there are trees lining the street, R. is not sure if he just sees one or two people jumping back into the car. He is just certain that the car is speeding away from him as fast as possible. He screams Eddie’s name and there’s no response. By the time that R. is able to reach Eddie, he is already unconscious, lying in a pool of his own blood.

By morning, the sidewalk would still have blood stains despite the powdered white detergent that the police or the neighbors spilled on it; R. was at the police station, being interviewed as a witness, Marlene Forero had been awakened and gone to the hospital and patiently waited to hear news of how serious the injuries had been, and Eddie was in the operation table undergoing emergency surgery for massive trauma to the brain caused by being hit by “either a lead pipe or a baseball bat,” as Newsday put it in that first article. Four years later, what was used to kill Eddie Garzon, remains a mystery.

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