Matthew Shepard is Guardian Angel for Texas Gay Man Who Was Lit on Fire
While at a party on Sunday, Oct. 30, Burke Burnett, a 26 year old gay man from a small town in Texas, who said he was inspired to come out by Matthew Shepard, was reportedly attacked by four men outside of Reno, Texas. He was beaten, stabbed, and finally thrown into a lit burn barrel, while party-goers stood by and watched, until it became clear they needed to drive him to a hospital some thirty minutes away.
The men attacking him were screaming anti-gay slurs, calling him a “pussy-ass faggot,” a “gay bitch” and a “cock-sucking punk,” all while torturing him. Apparently, bigots know how to multi-task.
Originally, Burnett said he couldn’t go home because the men who attacked him knew where he lived, and they had “nothing to lose” by further attacking him. Additionally, police said it could take up two weeks to arrest these felons, despite Burnett knowing their names, and the fact that two of the four men are currently on parole. Never-mind that there were more than twenty witnesses there watching the attack take place.
Well, Texans may be many things, but apparently they aren’t liars, and almost two weeks later some good news is heading Burnett’s way.
Three of four suspects were arrested within days, say police. James Mitchell Lasater III, 31, Micky Joe Smith, 25, and Daniel Shawn Martin, 33, were each arrested on aggravated assault charges, a second-degree felony in Texas with a maximum prison sentence of twenty years. Each of these counts is deservedly being considered a hate-crime.
The same person who inspired Burke Burnett to come out at just 15 may ensure from his grave that those who attacked him face real penalties for nearly murdering him. The 2009 passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, makes the possible punishment for these crimes life in prison.