Dromm Addresses Recent Murders
By Megan Montalvo
One week after David Rangel, a Flushing public school teacher, was found strangled to death in his Jackson Heights apartment on 91st Street, another middle-aged gay man was found dead after being murdered in a similar fashion at an Elmhurst motel.
|Councilman Danny Dromm speaks outside the Crown Motor Inn in Elmhurst to address the recent murder of Joseph Benzinger, an openly gay man who was found dead in the motel.
Photo by Ira Cohen
In the case of the first murder, Rangel, 53, is believed to have met his assailant at an online dating site, and in the second murder, Lleuyel Garcia, 23, of Inwood, has been arrested for allegedly murdering his boyfriend, Joseph Benzinger of Middle Village, whose body was discovered strangled in his room at the Crown Motor Inn on Queens Boulevard on Feb. 10. Benzinger was 54.
Due to an outpouring of concerns within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who is openly gay, held a press conference on Feb. 12 in front of the motel.
“The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities are deeply concerned about these two recent murders,” Dromm said. “It is an eerie coincidence that both of these murders took place within a week of each other and involved gay men.”
| The murder came one week after the death of David Rangel of Jackson Heights.
Photo Courtesy of Facebook
Although investigations are still underway, Dromm confirmed that the NYPD had shared with his office that in both murder cases, the men were strangled, there was no forced entry and there was some surveillance video.
“I don’t know if there is a connection or not, but that is something that I asked the police department to consider, and it is something that they are taking into consideration,” Dromm said, adding that “it is a possibility, but there are many possibilities.”
Another possibility that concerns Dromm is that both murders may be hate crimes. He has confirmed that the hate crimes task force is also involved with the investigations.
“People need to be safe,” he said. “There are still killers on the loose.”
Rangel and Benzinger’s murders come after the death of Charles Romo, an openly gay man who was found strangled to death in his apartment in Hamilton Heights on Jan. 28, and nearly four months after Lou Rispoli, a gay community activist, was murdered while out on an evening walk in his Sunnyside neighborhood.
While none of the perpetrators of these crimes have been captured, the Councilman said he remains confident the NYPD will work quickly and justly and encouraged members of the LGBT to use extra caution when meeting someone online.
“If you meet online, meet in a public place,” Dromm said. “Go to your favorite café and make sure the waiter sees who you are with. If you meet someone in a bar, let the bartender know who the person is.”
As an added step of encouragement, Ejeris Dixon of the New York City Anti-Violence Project also joined Dromm in creating awareness of safety measurement available.
“The New York City Anti-Violence Project has noticed this string of murders and violence against LGBT people when they’re trying to meet people online,” Dixon said. “We are here to offer our services, our safety tips and our community organizing programming as a way to address this violence and prevent it from happening in the future.”
Anyone with information about the deaths is encouraged to call the NYPD Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.
For more information of the Anti-Violence Project, call (212) 714-1141 or visit www.avp.org.
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or email@example.com.