Hate Crime on Military Base

August 9, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

The Clinton-Gore "don't ask, don't tell" policy has resulted in an 86% increase in gays being kicked out of the military since its implementation – a record increase. Anti-gay harrassment and violence in the ranks is on a steep upturn. With all their rhetoric about hate crimes laws, it is astonishing how Bill Clinton and Al Gore refuse to lift a finger to protect gay soldiers suffering and being murdered directly under their own supervision.

NBC Nightly News

TOM BROKAW. NBC News In Depth tonight, and NBC News investigation. A soldier, a member of an elite military unit murdered in his barracks. The chief suspect, a fellow soldier. Soldier-on-soldier homicides are relatively rare. There are more than 460,000 men and women in the U.S. Army, and over the past five years, 39 soldiers were murdered in cases where the main suspect was another soldier. But tonight, new details about a brutal killing on a military base and what makes this especially shocking. It could be a hate crime. A caution, some of the language in this report is graphic. NBC's Lisa Meyers tonight with an NBC News Investigation In Depth.

LISA MEYERS. Everyone involved has been ordered not to talk about what happened here at Fort Campbell in the early morning of July 5th when 21-year old Private First Class Barry Winchell was brutally murdered as he slept in his barracks.

PAT KUTTELES [Barry Winchell's Mother]. The fact was he was murdered. He was on an Army base where we thought he was safe, and he was murdered.

MEYERS. Winchell's parents say their son loved the Army. Was a decorated soldier who dreamed of becoming a helicopter pilot. And was proud to be based at Fort Campbell, home of the elite 101st Airborne. And, they say, he was a good son.

WALLY KUTTELES [Barry Winchell's Stepfather]. He had a very quick mind. And a good heart. He would do anything for anyone.

MEYERS. But his parents say they did not know what some of his son's friends are saying. That Barry Winchell was gay. And the apparent victim of a hate crime. In military court today, charged with the murder, 18-year old Private Calvin Glover. His attorneys had no comment. Another soldier is charged with encouraging the attack. After dozens of interviews, an NBC News investigation finds evidence this may indeed have been a hate crime. That some soldiers believe it was, and that the Army's policy toward gays may be impeding the investigation.

Here is what happened. In court today, witnesses say Glover and Winchell got into a fight one night and Winchell won. A soldier tells NBC News that after that fight, Glover was taunted by others in his unit for, quote, letting a faggot beat him up. Few taunts could be more humiliating in the macho culture of the military. The next night, at 3:00 AM, on the third floor of these barracks, Barry Winchell was beaten to death with a baseball bat.

KUTTELES. The men at the... the guy who hit him with the bat, I mean he didn't hit any part of the body except his head. And of course, it crushed his skull. And I hope he never knew what happened.

MEYERS. So he never had a chance?

KUTTELES. No, he never had a chance. He never had a chance to defend himself.

MEYERS. So badly beaten, Winchell would never regain consciousness. This retired soldier says a medic called to the scene described a disturbing picture.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER. There was a group of soldiers standing around him, some of them were yelling at him to get up, they were calling him faggot and using other... you know, cussing at him and trying to get him to get up.

MEYERS. Cal Adams, who entertains as a female impersonator, says he was dating Winchell at the time.

CAL ADAMS [Female Impersonator]. I am certain that Barry's sexual orientation and the knowledge of that in his group is why he was murdered.

MEYERS. So are many gay soldiers on base. Who are shocked, frightened, and afraid to be identified.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER #2. People started fearing for their own safety, for themselves, especially the gay soldiers back at base, fearing that something like this might happen to them.

MEYERS. The Service Members' Legal Defense Network, which helps gay soldiers, began its own investigation after some soldiers were afraid to talk to the Army.

MICHELLE BENECKE [Service Legal Defense Network]. They're terrified if they come forward with information that might be relevant that they themselves will be investigated and kicked out under "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue."

MEYERS. The military policy on homosexuality, the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy, says gays are allowed to serve only if they don't tell anyone they are gay or engage in homosexual activity. An Army spokesperson says there are ways for gays to report what they know safely. And it is too early to tell whether this is a hate crime.

MAJ. PAMELA HART [Army Spokesperson]. We are uncovering as much as we can and doing it thoroughly and as aggressively as possible.

MEYERS. The Army gave Private Barry Winchell a memorial service. His family buried him at home. And today, they wonder exactly why their son died, and what the Army will do about it. Lisa Meyers, NBC News, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

BROKAW. This footnote tonight, the hearing on the murder of Private Barry Winchell is expected to last until mid-week, before any recommendation is made about whether to send this case to a full court marshall.