Teacher Found Strangled To Death
By Megan Montalvo
Nearly two weeks after David Rangel was found choked to death in his Jackson Heights apartment, police have yet to name a suspect or make an arrest in connection to the murder.
On the evening of Jan. 27, NYPD officers responded to a 911 call of an unconscious male inside of 32-23 91st St., within the confines of the 115th Precinct.
Upon arrival, the police discovered the former Flushing PS/MS 219 Spanish teacher unconscious and stuffed under his couch in his apartment. Rangel was pronounced dead on arrival.
In light of the ongoing investigation, Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who is openly gay, is asking the NYPD to consider classifying the murder as a hate crime, given the fact that Rangel was an openly-gay 53-year-old man who is believed to have met his assailant on an online dating site.
“The horrific crime committed against David Rangel, an openly gay public school teacher who lived in one of the city’s most tolerant communities, is deeply distressing,” Dromm said. “While the investigation is ongoing, the crime appears to have elements of a possible anti-gay crime. As such, I have called on the NYPD to ensure it is investigated accordingly.”
According to the Councilman, at the time of discovering Rangel, the police had removed his computer and not cited any forced entry, which, by nature, appeared similar to previous online pick-up crimes.
“When you strangle somebody, it’s very violent because the killer has to watch the victim die. The fact that this person is still out there on the street, it’s a threat to the community,” Dromm said, noting that his own mother lives less than a block away from where the crime took place. “It seems similar to other online pick-up type crimes that I’ve heard about in the Bronx and in Brooklyn. For gay people in particular, we worry. That’s why we’re trying to ensure the police does due diligence during the investigation.”
While the Councilman had acknowledged that there were video images of Rangel entering his apartment prior to the incident occurred, he said that it is not yet clear as to whether or not the NYPD has surveillance video of the assailant.
“Apparently there was some video, because they saw him [Rangel] going to his apartment, and he never came out,” he said.
Rangel’s murder came two days prior to a similar murder of a gay man reported in Manhattan, where 48-year-old Charles Romo was found dead, wearing only his underwear, in his Hamilton Heights apartment, and nearly four months after openly-gay community activist Lou Rispoli was murdered while out on a midnight walk in Sunnyside.
In an effort to address concerns in the City’s LGBTQ Communities, the NYC Anti-Violence Project has scheduled a free public event for staying safe with online hookups, which will take place on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at 92-10 Roosevelt Avenue at 92nd Street.
“We’re definitely worried that the violence that occurred [with Rangel’s death] is connected to online hookups,” AVP Deputy Director Ejeris Dixon said. “While we don’t know the context of this specific incident, we’ve been hearing from community members that they need support in safely hooking up online. By holding this safety event in the area where the violence occurred, we are hoping to raise awareness and really challenge the stigma around online dating.”
For further information on the event or online safety tips, call AVP at (212) 714-1141 or visit www.avp.org.
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or email@example.com.