The Unsolved Murders of 3 D.C.-Area Black Gay Men

The unsolved murders of 3 black gay men in the D.C. area gets some clarity with a fresh look at victimology and criminal profiling.

Devin Barrington-Ward, the president of Impulse Group, D.C., an entertainment organization that promotes HIV advocacy and education for black gay men, recently sounded the alarm that no one seems to be looking into whether the unsolved murders of three men between 2014-2017 might be related. This post examines whether there is any merit to his concern.

Timeline & Victims

Demencio Lewis, 23: March 13, 2014. Found shot to death on a street in SE D.C.

Stephon Marquis Perkins, 21: June 25, 2015. Found unconscious on a street in SE D.C. and suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. He was taken to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Matthew Mickens-Murray, 26: May 30, 2017. Found stabbed to death in his Hyattsville, MD apartment

Victim & Homicide Narratives

D.C. police have said they do not believe the two D.C. shootings are related. Perkins was found near the intersection of 16th and Galen Streets around 3:45am. Lewis was dining with his mother shortly before his murder. He received a phone call from a person named Chris who was, apparently, waiting downstairs. Lewis told his mother he needed to talk to Chris and would return shortly. Minutes later, police responded to multiple gunshots fired. Lewis had been shot 27 times.

Mickens-Murray attended several D.C. Black Pride-related events over the Memorial Day Weekend, just prior to his death. He was last seen at a D.C.-area gay bar, Nellie’s, on Sunday night, May 28, 2017.

Theory

  • The two shootings are not related to the murder of Mickens-Murray. The shootings constitute an exterior crime scene (outdoors, very public) whereas the murder of Mickens-Murray was an interior crime scene (indoors, very private, his own apartment). In addition to switching crime scene types, it would be highly unusual for a serial offender to switch weapons (two of the murders were committed with a gun, one with a knife) AND to switch geographic locations (two of the murders occurred in SE D.C. while the other occurred in Hyattsville, MD).
  • There is a small possibility that the two shootings are related (both used a gun, both were exterior crime scenes, both victims were gay black men). However, there are some differences to note: Lewis’ murder was clearly overkill. 27 shots that hit him indicate a high level of personal rage with intent to kill. Perkins, on the other hand, was still alive when his offender/s left the scene and, from what I can glean, suffered a single gun shot wound.
  • It appears Lewis’ murder was personal, someone who knew him, and was angry and wanted revenge. That person set up a situation where Lewis would come downstairs to meet him under the pretense of a fabricated situation (to hand something off, to exchange something, to return something?) but had already planned to ruthlessly execute him instead.
  • Mickens-Murray’s murder was likely committed by someone he met while frequenting Nellie’s bar or a D.C. Black Pride event shortly after he left the bar. He probably took this man home to his Hyattsville apartment under the assumption of a rendezvous and something went awry once they got inside. I would be curious to know if the knife used to stab Mickens-Murray was from his own kitchen — this would indicate that the attack was likely not planned. If the murder weapon has not been found and there are no knives missing from his apartment, I would be concerned that there is a more brazen, planful killer out there.
  • Despite the fact that I do not see any evidence these crimes are related, I do share Barrington-Ward’s concern that the lack of momentum, media attention, and focus on finding the killers IS something these cases have in common. Not only were these black men that were murdered, they were gay black men — a double scarlet letter, a compounded minority. If Lewis was a Caucasian female, shot 37 times on the street in broad daylight, can you imagine the national media presence that would have ensued? Consider if Mickens-Murray were a female, straight, or Caucasian — a brutal stabbing by an unknown offender in her own home would have been splashed on the front page of People Magazine. These cases do share a certain lack of regard for the lives of black, gay men.
  • As Barrington-Ward stated:  “While I do not believe the murders of Matt and Demencio are related, it is a tragedy that two Black gay men can be killed in our area and, outside of their family and friends, no entity is demanding accountability and justice from the departments responsible for investigating these crimes. Far too often when Black gay men and Black transwomen are killed their murderers are never found. This sends a disturbing message that their lives have little to no value to their communities because if they did their murderers would be found,” Today, Impulse Group D.C. is seeking to shift that narrative and push the authorities to do more and secure justice in these cases.”
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