Remembering Hate Crimes: Oct. 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard Was Found

- Renee Gannon

Ten years ago from today, October 7, 2008, Laramie Police Dept. Officer Reggie Fluty went to the scene reported by a bicycle rider - a young man tied to a fence and obviously beaten very badly. Her words in the Laramie Project - that "the only part of his face not covered in blood were where he had been crying" are one of the most saddening and tragic moments in GLBTQI history. This was the day Matthew Shepard was found.

I wanted to post this for everyone as a 10-year memorial to the discovery of Matt, who was in a coma at the time of discovery, but also to everyone else who has been a vitcim of hate and violence.

Matthewe Shepard was a good kid. He was the oldest son of Dennis Shepard and Judy Shepard. He attended Crest Hill Elementary School, Dean Morgan Junior High, and the first two years of high school at Natrona County High School. He was a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church. Shepard spent his junior and senior years of high school at The American School In Switzerland. After graduating in 1995, he attended Catawba College and Casper College before he relocated to Denver. Shepard then became a first-year political science major at the University of Wyoming and was chosen as the student representative for the Wyoming Environmental Council.

He was described by his parents and good close friend from Orlando, Florida, Frankie J. McGraw, as "...an optimistic and accepting young man ...[who]... had a special gift of relating to almost everyone. He was the type of person that was very approachable and always looked to new challenges. Matthew had a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."

The two men who attacked Matthew Shepard, Henderson and McKinney, were not charged with a hate crime, as no Wyoming criminal statute provided for such a charge. The disturbing and brutal nature of Matthew Shepard's murder prompted calls for new legislation addressing hate crime, urged particularly by those who believed that Shepard was targeted on the basis of his sexual orientation. Under current United States federal law and Wyoming state lawcrimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation are not prosecutable as hate crimes.

In the following session of the Wyoming Legislature, a bill was introduced defining certain attacks motivated by victim identity as hate crimes, but the measure failed on a 30-30 tie in the Wyoming House of Representatives.

At the federal level, then-President Bill Clinton renewed attempts to extend federal hate crime legislation to include gay and lesbian individuals, women, and people with disabilities. These efforts were rejected by the United States House of Representatives in 1999. In 2000, both houses of Congress passed such legislation, but it was stripped out in conference committee.

On March 20, 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act (HR 1592) was introduced as federal bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress, sponsored by Democrat John Conyers with 171 co-sponsors. Matthew's parents, Judy and Dennis, were present at the introduction ceremony. The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 3, 2007. Ultimately, the amendment was dropped by the Democratic leadership because of opposition from antiwar Democrats, conservative groups, and President George W. Bush.

Please use this article as a reminder that we are still very far from receiving equal rights and equal protections in this country. The fact that there still is not a national law protecting our community from hate and violence perpetuated by our own sexuality and gender identities is not only disheartening but frustrating too.

How many others out there do you think have been a victim of a hate crime whose perpetrators didn't receive the justice they deserved? How many people do you know personally that have been a victim of some kind of hate crime, attack or slur? When is enough, enough?

This is an extremely big election and I urge each and every one of you to stay educated on the issues involved in this election. Barack Obama supports expanding federal hate crimes to include sexual orientation/gender identity and he might be our only hope to finally get the national protection we deserve. Let's do it for Matthew Shepard. Let's do it for all the innocent victims whose attacks have gone unnoticed or unreported time after time. Let's do it for ourselves.


Alan said...

I too was saddened by this tragedy. However, the mentallity of the men who committed this vile deed, must, in my opinion, been as low as those brutes who under Adolph Hitler, in World War II, gassed to death millions of individuals including gay men; as well as Jew, Jehovah Witnesses, Gypsies, the differently abled, mentally challenged, etc.

Please click on this link, to learn about Gay men and the Holocaust:


For more general information, on the Holocaust; please click on this link:


For information on Adolph Hitler, see this link:


Each of the above links have bibliographies, which you can click on for further documentation.

I post this in honor of Matthew Shepard.


Anonymous said...

I have been wearing a blue (now faded) wrist band for, well, a very long time now, sadly. I promised Matthew's mother Judy I wouldn't take it off until the Matthew Shepard Act passed Congress and was signed into law. I hope this happens soon--I'm to the point where I may need to use duct tape to hold it together. I pray for the day when I can send it back to Matthew's mother. I'm so sad it will be is such bad shape. Fighting hatred shouldn't be so hard.

Renee Gannon said...

Anon - "Fighting hatred shouldn't be so hard." I couldn't agree with you more.

Margo Moon said...

What a powerful appeal, Renee.

I hadn't heard the detail about the tears before, and like you, I find it almost unbearable.

Thank you for posting this.

Sinnerviewer said...

Thanks for posting this, Renee. There is so much injustice in the world today - we haven't really come as far as we need to, have we?

Renee Gannon said...

Sinnerviewer & Margo, you're welcome.

The injustice just makes me sad, especially when I write about things like this.

I don't think most people realize that there still isn't hate crime legislation that covers sexual orientation and gender identity. You would think, in this day and age, that would be a no-brainer, but apparantly it's going to take more for something to pass in Washington. I just hope we can get Obama in the White House and that he will be true to his words...

Anonymous said...

Obama is hardly the go to guy for civil rights, despite his experience with discrimination, however, i hope that Matthew Shepard, rest in peace, may someday be truly at peace when he sees his country from where ever he rests, embrace the differences which made him a target.

Anonymous said...

Let’s look @ what we do know about Methew W. Shepard. No matter why the murder happened, the idea that A.J. McKinney and Methew W. Shepard were strangers who did not know eachother until that day is rubbish. There are many witnesses-Doc O’ Connor’s ex girlfriend, Elaine Baker (bartender), M.K. Rohrbacher (drug dealer), Tristan (Ted) Henson (Methew W. Shepard’s former lover) & others who saw them together.

Of course the witnesses can only say they saw them together and can not know it all. It’s not believed Methew W. Shepard knew the 2nd man (R.A. Henderson) and I agree with Stephen Jimenez that Russell A. Henderson should have been convicted of a lesser crime such as Manslaughter and that he should have gotten a jury trial but got bad representation by his lawyers who urged him to take a plea when he wanted a jury trial. Book of Matt by Stephen Jimenez Stephen Jimenez’s evidence are 1st party witnesses he interviewed-over 100 of them over 13 years.

Methew W. Shepard associating with drug dealers in both Wyoming and Colorado is not disputable. Methew W. Shepard went into bars where drugs were sold and he did associate with drug dealers-he went to bars named Tornado, Ranger, Library & other bars in Wyoming and Colorado where drugs were sold. Methew W. Shepard’s friend Tina LaBrie expressing concerns about Methew W. Shepard’s drug and $ problems. We know that Methew W. Shepard was having $ problems (spending so much on limosuine rides in Doc O’ Connor’s limousine).

Methew W. Shepard’s a junky (proven fact), drunkard and had money problems. Sheriff O’Malley has said that if Methew W. Shepard sold drugs, the cops would have known which is dishonest-Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. R.J. DeBree know cops don’t always catch all the criminals and that many drug dealers escape detection. Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. Robert J. DeBree have arrested drug dealers and they know how it’s the family and friends who get surprised after they learn some1 they know is a drug dealer.

Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. Robert J. DeBree know that it’s unlikely MW. Shepard told his friends and family that he was a drug dealer, and even if Methew W. Shepard did tell his friends and family that he sold drugs, don’t think his family will admit this ugly as they had tried to hide the fact that Methew Wayne Shepard molested 8 year old boys and got counseling.

Now was Methew W. Shepard’s assocation with drug dealers and going into bars where drugs were sold more than buying drugs ? Was Methew W. Shepard a drug dealer or a drug courier? Stephen Jimenez thinks so and he believes it was the Denver circle. No, Stephen Jimenez does not know it all but his conclusions are sincere and honest. While homosexual groups complain about Stephen Jimenez saying the murder case is complicated and possibly not a hate crime, that is incidental-main reason homosexual groups are offended by Stephen Jimenez’s book is because he talked about the ugly truths about who M.W. Shepard was. You don’t always know the secrets friends and family have. If a person is a drug dealer, then they are usually not going to tell their friends and family that they do this.

Even if Metthew W. Shepard did tell his friends and family that he sold drugs, don’t think his family will admit this ugly truth about him, as they had tried to hide the fact that Methew Wayne Shepard molested 8 year old boys and got counseling for it. Laramie Project, Shepard Foundation & Big Island Chronicle Tiffany Camille Hunt sees nothing wrong with Methew W. Shepard selling drugs and molesting children so their view is rubbish.