By Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 16, 2008
An 18-year-old District man was arrested yesterday on charges stemming from the fatal beating of Tony R. Hunter, who was attacked last month while walking with a friend to a popular gay bar in Northwest Washington.
Robert Hanna, of the 1100 block of McCollough Court NW, was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Sept. 7 beating. Hunter, 37, of Clinton, died 10 days later. Police initially said they were considering the possibility that the attack was motivated by anti-gay bias but later said they had found no evidence supporting that motive.
"At this time, there is no information to classify this crime as a hate or bias crime," said Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who joined Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and other officials at a news conference announcing the arrest.
Police said earlier they suspected that Hunter and a friend were the targets of an attempted robbery when they were accosted about 11 p.m. at Eighth and N streets NW, a short distance from the Be Bar. But Lanier said yesterday that the trouble began when Hanna and Hunter exchanged words, which led to a fistfight and Hunter's injuries.
Lanier did not reveal what was said during the confrontation. Police said Hanna and Hunter did not know each other. Hunter, who was unconscious when police arrived, suffered severe head trauma, authorities said.
The crime rattled the Shaw community, which has undergone a major transformation with construction of the convention center and the planned redevelopment of the O Street Market at Seventh and O streets. Residents say problems such as gangs and loitering remain, however.
Nearly 200 people, including D.C. Council members Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), attended a vigil in Hunter's honor last month.
Evans, who appeared with Fenty and Lanier yesterday, said crime in Shaw has declined in recent weeks, "but it's never too far from the surface."
"We have to always constantly be on guard as to what's happening in the neighborhood," Evans added.
After detectives from the department's homicide unit and gay and lesbian liaison unit investigated the killing, police obtained a warrant for Hanna, Lanier said.
He was arrested yesterday morning at an undisclosed location in Northwest Washington.
Gay activist Peter Rosenstein said that even though the incident has not officially been declared a hate crime, gay people in the city are on edge because of other assaults.
"There have been hate crimes, and the community feels like they're under attack," he said.