City Hall

Following a Dozen Attacks, Oak Lawn Gets a Visit From the Mayor, Rallies

Eleven weeks later, the Oak Lawn community is getting the police attention it has been demanding. Since September 1, the area immediately surrounding the gay friendly Cedar Springs Road strip has seen at least 12 people attacked. Some victims were robbed and many ended up in the hospital. Geoffrey Hubbard, a bartender at the Tap House on Cedar Springs, was the latest victim of what the Dallas Police Department is calling a "series of violent crimes" in Oak Lawn. His skull was fractured during an attempted robbery Thursday night.

After the attack on Hubbard, the area is finally getting some of the special attention it has been demanding for months. Friday, DPD announced that it was forming a task force made up of investigators, detectives, patrol officers and undercover officers who will be specially assigned to the area. Friday night, there was a visibly increased police presence on the Cedar Springs strip. Dallas City Council member Adam Medrano, who represents much of Oak Lawn, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings staged a bar crawl of sorts in the neighborhood.

"I want to say thank you [to Rawlings]," said Daniel Cates, who organized a rally in support of Oak Lawn at police headquarters Sunday night. "We saw for the first time in the two and a half months that this has been going on. We saw a very visible DPD presence on the strip. For that, we want to say thank you, but I don't want us to forget that it has taken two and a half months. It's taken 12-15 people with their heads bashed in, it has taken protests, it has taken marches and it has taken a lot of bad publicity with vigilante groups threatening to patrol the strip themselves to get that response from our city leaders and DPD."
Cates and others at the lightly attended rally expressed unease at the way Dallas treats what they called the city's marginalized communities. When five robberies happened earlier this month on Katy Trail, Cates said, DPD immediately stepped up patrols in the area and arrested two suspects. No one has been arrested for any of the Oak Lawn attacks and members of the community gathered Sunday said they were now living in fear.

"I just moved to Dallas in July. I moved to Oak Lawn area because it was a vibrant community, it was somewhere I always felt safe," one man said. "Every time I came to Dallas, that was where I felt welcome. Two months after I moved in, it feels like everything has gone to shit and nothing is being done. I've got family that's like, 'Come back home.' This is my home. I'm not giving up." 

The perceived slow response to the Oak Lawn attacks only adds to the feeling in Dallas' LGBTQ community that the city and its institutions just don't care as much about them as they do others. Shade Schuler's name came up repeatedly Sunday. Schuler, who was transgender, was murdered this summer. Her body was found in a field on July 29, but wasn't identified until August 12. Dallas Police and the county medical examiner repeatedly referred to Schuler as a male, and her killer has not been found.

The goal of meeting Sunday night, Jeff Hood said, was to further "light a flame under the asses" of DPD and Rawlings, so that all of the attacks are properly investigated. To that end, Cates said DPD has scheduled a meeting with Oak Lawn community stakeholders for Tuesday.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young