My name is Tyler Wallach and I’m from Houston, Texas.
One night a few months ago, three of my friends and I, we went to dinner at one of our favorite places to go in Brooklyn. I live in Williamsburg. And we went to dinner and we had a wonderful time, I think we were celebrating the fact that one of my roommates got a new job. And we were on our way home and being ourselves, probably loud, probably cackling. We were having a great time, we were having a wonderful time. We turned the corner and we saw this guy on his phone and I can tell he’s trying to say something to me to the effect of getting my attention and he sort of holds his call that he’s on for the moment and says, “I have to deal with these gay guys on the street right here.”
He starts calling us faggots and tells us that he has to get off the phone in order to deal with us in some sort of way. And I engage in conversation with him and tell him that this isn’t the kind of neighborhood where you can talk to people like that.
We started to sort of yell at each other at some point and separating from each other on the street. As I had walked past him and I was moving away from him, I turned around to see a group of people behind me on the street, on Lorimer, cheering. I live right around the corner, I turned, I go directly into my apartment to tell my roommate about what had sort of just happened — my other roommate. So one of us had poked our head out to make sure he had left the scene and that we were okay but inadvertently he had seen where we went inside. So we had immediately locked the front door to our building. The second door as well, there’s like a vestibule situation. And then the third door — we live on the first floor of the building — and that’s our door. And we realize he’s sort of coming back at us, as it were, and he breaks down the front door of the building and pushes through and snaps the wood that the door’s actually attached to, and then he breaks down the second one. And at this point I’m kind of realizing that he’s got this strength and this sort of like anger that didn’t seem so hot on the street but something had obviously escalated and he then begins to pound our door.
I’m on the phone with 911 being very loud about the fact that I’m telling them that there’s an intruder and he’s breaking into our building and I’m being very, very loud about telling the address. And one of the other people in the home is taking people and trying to get them out the back window of the back of our apartment, because if he broke in, that’s not where my head was, I was on the phone with the police. And someone else in the group was pushing on the door against him as he was sort of trying to break in our door but we have three deadbolts.
I believe he can hear that I’m on the phone with 911 and he starts to walk away, we look through the peep hole, he’s walking away and before I know it, we can see and hear sirens outside of our apartment. Two minutes didn’t even go by and the police were on the scene and they wanted to, they wanted to find him immediately but he had pushed in our door so hard that he bent the brass deadbolt and our door was not able to open so the police pulled me out of the front window of my apartment and throw me in the back of a cop car for lack of a better term and we start patrolling the area to see if anyone is nearby who matches what he looked like or if he was stumbling off in any other area.
I remember looking and we’re spending like 30 or 40 minutes and it’s obvious he’s taken a turn or he’s gone into a building, he’s gone into a bar, and it was a random occurrence this person didn’t follow us home from the restaurant. I’d never seen this person before in my life. I’d never seen him in the neighborhood.
So they take us to the precinct later that night and start asking us more questions. They start asking us questions in the area like, “Was there anything you did that maybe provoked it.” They were like, “We’re not asking you to make you feel like you did anything wrong, but this just sounds so dangerous that this person attacked you because you were LGBT that we need to know that that’s the only reason, that that’s what actually makes this a hate crime.”
The case gets taken out of Brooklyn and goes into the Hate Crimes Unit of Manhattan. The officers investigating the situation sort of just made sure that we wanted to understand the weight of the situation. We were just some kids who moved to New York from Texas, but he just wanted to make sure we knew that I guess that it could have been deadly.
I think to a certain degree people should push back when they hear homophobic slurs on the street or in person. I think that it’s smart to gauge the situation, make sure no one is out of their mind as a manner of speaking, and make sure no one’s intoxicated or going to do anything that they’d regret, but I think there’s plenty of instances in life where, as LGBT people, others have this idea that they can say whatever they want to us because at times we may live out loud but it doesn’t give permission for you to hurt anybody. And if we can watch out for each other in our community we can watch out for ourselves, then we’ll all be better off.