Local organizations host vigil for murdered seaman
Death hits home for local veterans
Published Thursday, 09-Jul-2009 in issue 1124
In response to the murder of Navy Seaman August Provost at Camp Pendleton on June 30, the San Diego County-based Department of Defense Federal Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Employees (DOD FED GLOBE) and the North County LGBT Coalition are organizing a candlelight vigil to take place near the military base on Friday, July 10.
“We want to honor Seaman August Provost because he was a gay man of color who was murdered under very suspicious circumstances while he was working, and we want to make sure that he gets the respect that he deserves,” said DOD FED GLOBE Executive Director Lisa Kove.
“It’s also meant to be a statement to the military that we are not going to let this one go until we have answers,” said North County LGBT Coalition board member Tina Leight-Roades.
In the early morning of Tuesday, June 30, Seaman August Provost, while on sentry duty at the Assault Craft Unite Five compound at Camp Pendleton, was found dead with several gunshot wounds, said Capt. Matt Brown, a Navy spokesperson for Navy Region Southwest. A fire was also lit near Provost, suggesting that the suspect tried to destroy the evidence, he said.
One sailor, taken into custody last week, has been linked to the murder, said Brown. The suspect’s name has not been released.
Provost’s aunt, Rose Roy, however, alleges that the military told Provost’s family that was he shot three times, had his hands and feet bound, his mouth gagged and his body burned.
Roy also said that her nephew had complained a year earlier about being harassed for being gay and said she had advised Provost to report and document the incidents, but the military did little to help.
The military has repeatedly said there is no information to suggest that Provost’s murder was motivated by hate or that Provost was treated in the way Roy alleges.
“He did suffer gunshot wounds, and there was clearly an attempt made to destroy evidence at the scene with somebody lighting a fire. But he was not bound; he had not been gagged, and he had not been mutilated or stabbed or anything like that,” Brown said.
Last week, Brown told CNN that the death was being investigated as a random homicide.
“There is nothing random about being tied up, shot and then set on fire. Especially on post at 2 a.m.,” said a friend of Provost’s who served in the Navy and spoke on condition of remaining anonymous.
San Diego City Commissioner and Chair of the San Diego Human Relations Commission Nicole Murray-Ramirez said calls about the murder swarmed in the hours after the murder. He joined with officials from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the American Veterans for Equal Rights in asking for a complete investigation on this possible hate crime.
“I began to receive reports from sources on base that Seaman Provost was not only gay, but that he had possibly been harassed by other servicemembers for his sexual orientation and for being perceived as gay,” said Murray-Ramirez
Both Bob Filner and Susan Davis have requested an official inquiry into the matter.
“It is critically important to know the motive behind this death, which I hope will be fully investigated with due haste and as transparently as possible,” Davis said, in a prepared statement.
For local veterans Evelyn Thomas, 41, and Linda Sanders, 62, Provost’s death recalls their own experiences in the military.
“When I heard about him, I got really sad. Really sad,” Thomas said.
Like Provost, Thomas entered the military because she wanted to go to college.
“When I was in high school, I wanted to attend college. I had the grades, but my parents didn’t have the funds,” Thomas said.
During her six years in the military, Thomas said she was harassed daily after being outed by her colleagues.
“They terrorized me every single day. They came into my room and trashed it and had people watching me with everything that I did or said,” she said.
Linda Sanders, Thomas’ wife, was also outed while serving in the military as a national representative to the Marine Core.
“When I got outed, it didn’t matter with what I knew, my career was over,” Sanders, who served for 23 years, said.
The military brought criminal charges against Sanders, but the charges were never identified. Sanders could no longer stay.
“I eventually got so sick that I had to leave. I had a mental breakdown,” she said.
Both Thomas and Sanders, who married last year, will be at the vigil.
The vigil will be held just outside of Camp Pendleton, at the corner of Monterey Drive and North Coast Highway, at 7:30 p.m.
Those who live in Southern or Central San Diego County are encouraged to meet on the day of the event at the San Diego LGBT Community Center at 5:30 p.m. and carpool as a “funeral procession” to the vigil, Kove said.
For more information, including driving directions and parking, visit www.dodfedglobe.ning.com/events/candle-light-memorial-vigil.