Less than a year of moving to Hitchcock, Oklahoma, Randy Gamel-Medler’s son was threatened, he was harassed, and his house was burned to the ground. Now, Gamel-Medler is filing a federal equal protection lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
The filing is against nine defendants, including Mayor of Hitchcock Rick Edsall and the Blaine County Sheriff’s department. Some of the claims include assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The suit also explains months of police and government inaction in response to racist and homophobic offenses.
One month after moving to the small town of Hitchcock, boasting a population of 119, Gamel-Medler’s son received threats. It happened in September 2016 at a town council meeting.
One of the defendants, after learning Gamel-Medler, a white gay man, had an African-American son, reportedly asked: ‘What’s going to happen when your house burns down and we don’t send out the fire trucks?’
Gamel-Medler filed a police report but no action was taken.
Mark Hammons of Hammons, Gowens, Hurst, Associates, the attorney on the case, told Gay Star News of a new development.
‘Randy was in the process of adopting a group of African-American children. This was met with additional hostility in April. The racial component is stronger than initially believed,’ he said. The lawsuit is being amended with the updated information.
Lawsuit demands accountability from law and government officials
‘When our family moved to the town of Hitchcock in rural Oklahoma we thought we were buying our last house,’ said Gamel-Medler. ‘We wanted to know our neighbors by their first names and grow old together, but we were soon met with hatred, suspicion, and discrimination. Town officials conspired to run us out of office, all while local law enforcement ignored our pleas for help.’
Following the threats against his son, Gamel-Medler was attacked in May 2017.
As town clerk, he was clearing road obstruction when he was reportedly assaulted by another defendent.
The defendant began shaking Gamel-Medler’s truck. They then allegedly exclaimed: ‘I’m going to grab your little boy, rip his n***er head off, and sh** down his throat.’ He also called Gamel-Medler a ‘f***ing queer’.
When Gamel-Medler reported the incident, the mayor said he already informed the police. Then, the Deputy Sheriff refused to take a report, claiming the incident was free speech and just how people are.
Edsall told News 9: ‘It’s a farming community. Everybody knows everybody. He moved in and started stirring up crap.’
‘This abhorrent incident underscores the urgent need for our communities and public officials to commit to combatting the epidemic of hate-based violence that continues to plague too many in the LGBTQ community,’ said Robin Maril, Human Rights Campaign’s Associate Legal Director. ‘No family should have to fear for their safety because of who they are or whom they love. LGBTQ people in Oklahoma and around the nation need action.
‘We must demand training to ensure that law enforcement officials have the tools they need to partner with LGBTQ community-members and to swiftly respond to hate crimes with sensitivity. Adoption of mandatory reporting requirements for hate-crime statistics coupled with the passage of statewide LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes and non-discrimination protections are also essential to ending this violence.’
‘Crimes of bias still exist’
Throughout the rest of May, Gamel-Medler suffered more harassment. Someone attempted to drive his friend off the road and people threw gravel at his house.
Then, on May 28, Gamel-Medler noticed a fire in his garage after hearing the sound of glass breaking. He called the fire department, which was only a block away. However, they didn’t arrive until the house had burned to the ground.
Numerous defendants reportedly watched the blaze. However, Edsall refutes this, telling News 9: ‘Our fire department — a volunteer fire department — was at the fire within six minutes, putting the water on it.I was in my robe, fixing to go to bed when I heard the ruckus, and I went down there and grabbed a hose and started spraying.’
Hammons further told GSN he hopes it will not be long until Gamel-Medler is compensated for this loss.
‘No family should live in fear or have to endure harassment and threats based on racism and homophobia. We must hold those government officials, members of law enforcement, and others accountable,’ said Shannon Price Minter, legal director at LGBTQ national legal organization NCLR.
Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson continued: ‘We must not forget that after years of progress, crimes of bias still exist. The allegations in Hitchcock are horrific, and show the intersection of hate aimed at the both the African-American and LGBTQ Communities.’
‘We are now left with the last 27 years of our life literally erased’
Gamel-Medler is moving forward with the lawsuit and everything he and his family have been through.
‘We are now left with the last 27 years of our life literally erased,’ he said in a statement. ‘What do we do now?’
‘The horrific treatment of this man and his child are a terrible reminder of how hatred and bigotry feed off of each other,’ Hammons said. He also told GSN he hopes this case will raise awareness. ‘This is happening too many times across the country.’
Gay Star News reached out to the Blaine County Sherrif’s Office for comment.