Halifax gay rights activist beaten to death outside bar
Published Tuesday, April 17, 2012 10:46PM EDT
A well-known gay rights activist in Halifax is dead after being beaten as he was leaving a popular gay bar Monday night.
Raymond Taavel intervened when a man he was with began arguing with another man, who was yelling at the pair as they left Menz Bar. Witnesses said the man was yelling homophobic slurs.
"He was consistently using the word faggot. That's what drew my attention to the situation in the first place," witness Wolf Engelberg told CTV Atlantic. Engelberg was in his bedroom, which overlooks the scene of the beating, when the incident took place.
"There was a blatantly homophobic slant to the things in which he was saying and it was very clear that his primary issue was one with the man's sexuality."
Police called in search dogs after a witness reported that the man fled the scene. The suspect was found in an alley, around the corner from where Taavel was killed.
CTV Atlantic identified the suspect as 32-year-old Andre Noel Denny. He faces a charge of second-degree murder and is expected to appear in Halifax provincial court on Wednesday.
Police said they had been looking for the suspect earlier, because he had failed to return to the East Coast Forensic Centre following a one-hour leave.
"We had officers that had gone out and were looking for him," Const. Brian Palmeter told CTV. "Unfortunately we didn't locate him until after the assault took place."
Taavel's death has put Halifax's gay community on edge.
"I certainly think that people are going to continue to exercise caution and be looking out for their personal safety," Kevin Kindred of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project told CTV. "On the other hand, it's also, a lot of people talking today about reclaiming our right to feel safe on the street."
Heeding that message, friends of the 49-year-old activist took to Gottingen Street to reclaim the heart of the city's gay community.
Mourners hung rainbow flags, a symbol of gay pride, along the street.
NDP MP Megan Leslie said Taavel's death was "very, very sad news."
"He was a great member of our community, and he was a friend of mine and a friend of my team," Leslie told CTV.
Friends were to hold a candlelight vigil outside Menz Bar to honour Taavel.
Meanwhile, officials are looking into why the suspect was granted a pass from the East Coast Forensic Centre.
"At this stage we're gathering information," Nova Scotia Health Minister Maureen MacDonald told CTV. "It's a horrific situation."
With reports from CTV Atlantic's Kayla Hounsell and Rick Grant