Atlanta Police Department Officer Patricia Powell, the recently appointed LGBT liaison, said she is considering offering a safety course to gay Midtown residents after a gay couple was robbed at gunpoint in Piedmont Park.
“I don’t know if gay people are being targeted,” Powell said Tuesday.
But she noted the July 2 armed robbery of Rev. Joshua Noblitt of Saint Mark United Methodist Church and his partner, as well as reports of anti-gay epithets used during a series of fights and disturbances by young people at the June 3 Screen on the Green in the park.
Another man was also robbed of $10 at gunpoint on July 2 at Linden Lane and Central Park Place by the same group of young men, according to APD reports. Six black males ages 13 through 19 were arrested shortly after the July 2 robberies.
Whether or not the incident against Noblitt and his partner can be classified as a hate crime will be up to the prosecutor, said Carlos Campos, APD public affairs manager.
While Georgia does not have a state hate crimes law, the APD is one of the agencies in the state that tracks what it deems as hate crimes.
“They all face charges of felony armed robbery,” Campos said.
Those charged as adults in the July 2 armed robberies are Sam Johnson, 17; Benjamin Johnson, 16; and Daequan Lewis, 15, who are all listed as living at the same residence in Stone Mountain. Also charged is Jarvis Johnson, 19, of Parkway Drive in Atlanta. Sam Johnson was identified by APD as the gunman. Police are not releasing the names of the two juveniles.
The juveniles were sent to the Metro Regional Youth Detention Center. Those charged as adults were denied bond on a first hearing shortly after being arrested and remained in Fulton County jail at press time.
Noblitt said he and his partner were picnicking in the park near 10th Street on the evening of July 2 when they were approached by three young black youths and one of them asked if they were gay.
“Are y’all gay … we should whoop your ass for that,” Noblitt told police the youth said, according to an APD report.
The three youths walked off and returned later with a stick and got into a fight with Noblitt and his partner. During the fight, Noblitt called police from his cell phone. At the same time one of the three youths called for reinforcements, according to Noblitt and APD reports.
Several more young black men showed up on the scene and one man pulled a gun on Noblitt, held it to his head, and demanded their money.
Noblitt, who is social justice minister at Saint Mark, said when the gun was held to his head, he thought of his niece and newborn nephew, his work at his church and “this cannot be the way this goes down,” he said.
The fact one of the suspects is only 13 is “heartbreaking,” Noblitt added, who works with young people in the criminal justice system as part of his ministry.
“I’m more sad than angry,” he said. “There’s a story that leads up to a choice being made … and I wonder what the story is for all of them.”
Read the full story about the alleged attack on Noblitt here.